Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says she would 'quit' if she could

New audio comes after a weekend of some of the worst violence in three months of anti-government protests

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused "unforgivable havoc" by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople.

At the closed-door meeting, Ms Lam told the group that she now has "very limited" room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China. The audio tape was acquired and reported by Reuters on Monday.

"If I have a choice," she said, speaking in English, "the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology."

Her comments were revealed on the same day that Hong Kong students began a boycott of school, forming human chains as protesters moved to disrupt the rush-hour commute after a weekend that included some of the worst violence in three months of anti-government rallies.

The protest movement that is railing against China, which sits behind Hong Kong's government, has turned to a variety of tactics to disrupt life in Hong Kong in protest of Beijing's increasing influence on life in the global financial hub.

Early on Monday, protesters dressed in their signature black stood at doorways of trains, stopping them from closing, at a series of stations on the underground system, briefly disrupting an arterial network that has become a target of their activities.

Shortly afterwards, secondary school pupils formed human chains outside a number of government schools before classes began.

Some wore gas masks, helmets and goggles - the now essential kit carried by protesters during months of tear gas-enveloped rallies and clashes with police.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city that operates under a "one country, two systems" framework, which gives citizens rights unseen on the mainland.

China committed to giving the people of Hong Kong those rights in an agreement that saw the city return from British colonial rule in 1997.

China's erosions of those rights has been one of the driving forces behind the protest movement.

A general strike was also called for Monday, but it was yet to take effect.

The protests started because of China's move to impose an extradition bill that would allow for the transfer of suspects wanted by Beijing to the mainland.

That initial demand has been broadened to include that the bill be scrapped, and for an independent investigation into police tactics used during the protests.

The protesters also want the city's leader and all its lawmakers to be directly elected, scrapping the current system that heavily favours the Chinese government.

Monday's round of protest actions followed yet another weekend of violence on the streets as well as efforts by protesters to disrupt the city's airport, one of the busiest in the world.

On Sunday at least a dozen flights were cancelled after protesters blocked routes to the airport, although police fended off demonstrators' efforts to converge on the terminal itself.

On Saturday, hardcore protesters rampaged through the city centre, setting fires and throwing petrol bombs at riot police in defiance of a rally ban.

Police hit back with tear gas, baton charges and water cannon laced with chemical dye.

Video footage captured by local media showed police charge and beat a crowd cowering inside a train carriage, with Amnesty International calling their actions "horrifying".

Updated: September 2, 2019 06:26 PM

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