Hong Kong: Carrie Lam promises dialogue to help end protests

Hong Kong’s leader says she’s setting up a ‘communication platform’

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, right, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Hong Kong’s embattled leader pledged to "right away" establish a platform for dialogue with the government’s critics after more than two months of protests. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg
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Hong Kong’s leader says she is setting up a “communication platform” to resolve differences in the city after months of anti-government protests.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam also said on Tuesday that a fact-finding study would look at the causes of the demonstrations and the police response to them.

The movement held a massive but peaceful rally on Sunday after earlier protests were marked by violence. Ms Lam and other officials have said dialogue is conditional on the protest movement remaining peaceful.

Her comments fell short of the demonstrators’ demands, which include her resignation and an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality.

On Tuesday, Singapore universities announced they had cancelled exchange programmes to Hong Kong, warning its citizens to defer travel to the territory amid pro-democracy demonstrations, news website Today reported.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said in an advisory last week warning against non-essential travel that large protests in Hong Kong have become unpredictable and could turn violent with little or no notice.

Three universities – the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University – have subsequently advised students that exchanges and trips to Hong Kong had been cancelled, Today reported. The website is owned by Singapore's largest broadcaster, Mediacorp.

The protests in Hong Kong began in June as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.

They have since swelled into wider calls for democracy and have become increasingly violent, scaring off tourists, eroding business confidence and putting the territory on the verge of its first recession in a decade.

Meanwhile the UK foreign office has said it is “extremely concerned” by reports that a Hong Kong consulate worker has been detained during a recent trip to mainland China.

Simon Cheng, 28, was reported missing after failing to return from a business trip on August 8 in the city of Shenzhen.

The last text he sent was to his girlfriend as he passed through immigration control, it read: “Passing through. Pray for me.”

On Tuesday, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office said it was providing the man’s family with support and seeking information from authorities in Hong Kong and Guangdong province.

“We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen,” it said.

The incident comes at a sensitive time for the UK and China, which has accused the British government of meddling in its former colony by defending the rights of demonstrators.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam a day after his disappearance to discuss “concerns about the situation in the city and the protests there,” the foreign office said in a statement. It made no mention of Mr Cheng’s case.