Carrie Lam says measures announced this week a 'first step' as Hong Kong braces for more protests

Carrie Lam says measures announced this week a 'first step' as Hong Kong braces for more protests

Millions of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets since June in the biggest challenge to
Millions of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets since June in the biggest challenge to China's rule of semi-autonomous Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997. (Photo: AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Friday (Sep 6) that measures put forward by the government this week to solve the city's political turmoil are a first step, but will not solve the crisis immediately.

Lam withdrew a controversial extradition bill this week as part of four measures aimed at appeasing activists, but many people said it was too little, too late.

READ: Decision to withdraw extradition Bill was by Hong Kong government, with Beijing's support - Carrie Lam

READ: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announces formal withdrawal of extradition Bill - Full English transcript

"The four actions are aimed at putting one step forward in helping Hong Kong to get out of the dilemma," Lam told reporters during a trip to China's southern region of Guangxi. 

"We can't stop the violence immediately."

The Beijing-backed leader also said she disagreed with credit rating agency Fitch Ratings' downgrade of Hong Kong

With the latest move failing to appease some activists, the city is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend and protesters are threatening to block traffic to the airport. 

This comesa week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, which saw some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago.

The Airport Authority, in an advert in the South China Morning Post newspaper on Friday, urged protesters "not to disrupt the journey of tens of thousands of travellers who use the airport every day".

"Right now, bona fide travellers have to show their boarding pass in order to enter the terminals," Hong Kong Police's Deputy District Commander Lau Wing-kei told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

"It has also come to our attention that certain netizens are talking about making fake e-tickets to disguise (themselves) as passengers in order to gain entry into the passenger terminal building. 

"We must stress that such acts constitute the offence of using a false instrument. The maximum penalty is fourteen years imprisonment.

"Please allow me to remind you all that the Airport Authority has obtained an injunction order from the court (to) restrain people from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport," he added. 

"Anyone in breach of the order is liable to contempt of court."

Other rallies are planned on Friday evening across the city, at sites such as subway stations and near government headquarters.

GERMANY'S MERKEL RAISES HONG KONG ISSUE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday she raised the situation in Hong Kong with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and hopes for a peaceful resolution through dialogue.

"I pointed out that these rights and freedoms must of course be guaranteed," Merkel told a news conference after meeting Li.

"In the current situation, everything must be given to avoid violence and the solution can only be carried out in a political way - that is to say through dialogue," said Merkel. 

"There are also signs that the head of the government of Hong Kong wants to invite (people) to a dialogue, and I hope there will be such a dialogue, just as I considered it an important step that the Hong Kong side announced yesterday, that the controversial law (extradition bill) has been withdrawn. 

"And I hope that on this basis, those who have been protesting have the chance to take part in this dialogue. In the frame of their citizen's freedoms, all that progress will be achieved," she added. 

Merkel was on a two-day trip to China to push Beijing to open up its markets and embrace fairer competition.

In the same news conference, Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang said the Chinese government unswervingly safeguards 'one country, two systems' and 'Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people'".

In a pre-recorded televised address on Wednesday, Lam said the extradition Bill had been withdrawn, conceding to one of the protesters' five demands, although many said the move was too little, too late.

The extradition Bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, triggered mass protests that have now evolved into a broader backlash against the Hong Kong government and its political masters in Beijing.

The massive and sometimes violent protests present Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

Many protesters remain angry over Lam's refusal to grant an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality against protesters. Police have fired tear gas and bean bag rounds at protesters, who in turn have thrown petrol bombs and bricks at police in running battles across the Asian financial hub.

The protesters' three other demands are: Retraction of the word "riot" to describe rallies, release of all demonstrators arrested and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding the autonomy granted to the former British colony when it was handed back to China in 1997.

China denies the charge of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest. Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade.

READ: Explainer: How important is Hong Kong to the rest of China?

Legislation addressing China's actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by US Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess next week, their leader said on Thursday.

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://t.me/cnalatest

Source: Reuters/nc/ad

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