In her latest attempt to assuage the increasingly angry protesters (who have seemingly shifted from rage over the extradition bill to perceived abuses by police and Beijing), Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pledged to immediately establish a platform for dialogue, to investigate complaints against police and to launch a study into the source of the demonstrations and whether police abused protesters.
In other words, after the latest mass march that saw nearly 2 million people turn out in the city's streets, Lam has taken her biggest step yet toward meeting the movement's demands.
"I hope that this is a very responsible response to the aspirations for better understanding of what has taken place in Hong Kong," Lam told a briefing Tuesday. The study, she added, "will provide the government with recommendations on how to move forward and also to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents."
Lam's latest attempt to calm the protesters and assuage their anger has once again fallen short.
The moves appear to be a fresh attempt to engage with pro-democracy protesters, who came out in force on Sunday in a largely peaceful gathering that contrasted with violent clashes with police in previous weeks. While the move falls short of meeting the five key demands of demonstrators, who oppose Beijing’s attempts to tighten control over the city, it indicates a softening in Lam’s stance after she earlier ruled out an independent inquiry.
Lam’s opposition met the proposal with skepticism. Lawmaker Alvin Yeung said he wondered if it was just a “media gesture.” The Civil Human Rights Front -- which has organized the movement’s biggest mass marches -- quickly rejected her offer.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday morning that Beijing should respect the rights of Hong Kongers. Meanwhile, pundits wondered if Lam's promises were simply a 'gesture' intended to mislead the public.
"The fact is that Carrie Lam doesn’t see Hong Kong citizens as stakeholders in society, so what do we expect to talk about on the platform for dialogue?”the group’s vice convener, Wong Yik-mo, told reporters. “We do not need a platform for dialogue in which higher officials can bluff and waste our time and waste our money.”
Meanwhile, pressure is building on Lam from both sides.
Pressure has built on Lam among not just protesters, but also the police. Anthony Neoh, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, told the South China Morning Post in an article published Tuesday that the city cannot rely on police alone to restore calm and that a political solution was needed. He said he wouldn’t rule out an inquiry at a later stage, once the two sides had reconciled.
Lam has previously said dialogue could resume after violence stopped. Her efforts so far to reach out to some student leaders of the protests have been rebuffed as Lam refused to meet all of their demands.