Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has said that she has never offered to step down, a day after an audio recording emerged of her saying she would quit if she had “a choice”.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Lam did not deny veracity of the audio, but told reporters: “I have never tendered resignation to the central people’s government. I have not even contemplated tendering resignation … The choice of not resigning is my own choice.” She added: “The reason being I believe I can lead my team to come out of this impasse.”
Her comments came less than 24 hours after an audio recording, obtained by Reuters, was leaked. In it, the chief executive can be heard saying she was “very, very limited” in how her government could respond to the mass protests that began in June over a proposal to allow extradition to mainland China.
The remarks suggested Beijing has constrained the Hong Kong government’s response to months of mass protests, plunging the semi-autonomous territory into its worst political crisis since it was returned to Chinese control in 1997.
Lam called the leak “very inappropriate” and said was attempting to offer the perspective of “an individual” where resigning “might be an easy choice.”
“But I told myself repeatedly in past months that I and my team should stay on to help Hong Kong. That is my decision. I know it is not going to be an easy path.”
The press conference followed another weekend of protests, in some of the most intense clashes of the last three months, and amid an ongoing boycott of classes by university and secondary students.
As the protests continue with few signs of stopping, the government has hinted it could deploy an emergency ordinance that gives Lam sweeping powers to restore “public order”.
Lam refused to rule out the use of the colonial era law, saying: “As a government we have the responsibility to see what we have in our existent law that can deal with the unrest. If the violence calms down then there would be no need to do this.”