The Chinese propaganda newspaper Global Times published a stunning article Tuesday that quotes the Hong Kong chief executive confirming the legitimacy of audio published by Reuters in which she says she wants to resign from her post, but nonetheless declares the Reuters report is “fake.”
The Global Times does not elaborate on what about the Reuters report is “fake,” instead quoting Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying of the audio, “a conversation from a private party has been made public.”
Lam’s remarks as published by the Global Times do not bring into question the authenticity of the Reuters report.
“In a private session, I attempted to explain that, as an individual, given the very difficult circumstances, it might be an easy choice to leave,” Lam told reporters on Tuesday. “But I told myself repeatedly in the last three months, that I and my team should stay on to help Hong Kong.”
“A conversation from a private party has been made public. I think it’s very inappropriate. I am very disappointed,” Lam said. “I said on several occasions that throughout the period, I have never submitted resignation to the central government. The choice not to resign is my own. I told myself that my team and I should stay on. It is not an easy path but I’d rather stay with the people of Hong Kong.”
Lam did not say that the remarks Reuters published were in any way fabricated, instead, she argued that her words were poorly chosen because they were “private … so there was no deliberate implication.”
Lam insisted that she never approached anyone in the Chinese Communist Party with the idea of resigning from her post.
The “chief executive” post was created following the exit of the British from Hong Kong in 1997 to replace the role of governor. The Communist Party appoints the region’s head.
In the audio published by Reuters, which the news agency said was surreptitiously recorded at a meeting with private businessmen, Lam can be heard saying, “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.” Lam was discussing her administration’s response to the ongoing protests in the city, which have attracted millions demanding direct election of lawmakers and an end to a proposed law that would allow China to extradite people in Hong Kong for violating communist laws.
Lam described her handling of the situation as “unforgivable.”
She went on to say that she did not have any power over the situation anymore because the protests have risen “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world,” China and the United States.
Lam described her job as “serving two masters” — Beijing and Hong Kong — and lamented, “political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.”
“The Global Times has since learned the Reuters ‘exclusive’ story is fake,” the propaganda outlet claimed, without elaborating, in the same article in which it quotes Lam admitting the authenticity of the story
The Reuters bombshell has followed months of speculation that Lam has wanted to resign, but has no power over her post. Allowing Lam to step down would be a tremendous embarrassment for Beijing, experts have noted, particularly given that the Hong Kong protest movement is not asking Lam to step down.
The protest movement, which began in June, has five official demands of Lam: a withdrawal of the extradition bill, direct election of lawmakers (not the chief executive), freedom for the city’s political prisoners, an independent inquiry into police brutality against protesters, and an official withdrawal of the description of the June 12 protest, which was peaceful, as a “riot.”
Lam has very little support from Hong Kong residents, however, and is experiencing record-low approval ratings, largely in response to her stern condemnation of the protesters and refusal to even address, much less cede to, any of the five demands. Lam has accused protesters of using “hate speech” and defended violence against them, comparing the protesters to misbehaving children.
Despite Lam’s inability to stop the protests, the Chinese Communist Party continues to support her.
“I’d like to re-emphasize the central government’s firm support for the SAR government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in governing Hong Kong and for the police in lawfully ending violence and chaos and restoring order,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Monday.
Geng went on to again attack the protests as going “far beyond the scope of freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration.”
“They are radical, violent activities that severely undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law and social order, gravely threaten the life and property of Hong Kong citizens, and seriously challenge the basic principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” he asserted.
“One Country, Two Systems” is the official name of the policy that grants China sovereignty over Hong Kong but prevents the Communist Party from imposing its laws over the city. The extradition bill would result in legal consequences in Hong Kong for violating Chinese law, a violation of the policy.