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Hong Kong leader once again stresses dialog

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man (L), who says he was beaten by protesters, hides by a sushi bar while accosted by a group of men (unseen), who claim the former was picking fights with demonstrators, in a shopping mall near the Kowloon MTR station in Hong Kong, on September 22, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Hong Kong’s leader hopes peaceful and rational dialog between the government and protesters will help find a way out of almost four months of unrest in the Chinese territory.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that she was looking forward to engaging with the 150 protesters who are scheduled to talk to the government in a special session on Thursday.

“I sincerely hope the first dialog will be conducted in a peaceful, rational, and calm manner. My colleagues and I will humbly listen to the requests of people attending the meeting. Hopefully, we can find a way out for Hong Kong in this chaotic situation,” Lam said.

“Some people are worried whether the upcoming dialog will succeed, whether it will conclude on time. For me and my colleagues, no matter how difficult it will be, we will continue to carry out public dialog,” she added.

Lam has taken a gentle approach toward the protests despite the damaging effects the unrest had had on life in and the economy of the city. Since they started in June, the protests have taken on an increasingly violent nature, with masked individuals vandalizing public and private property and attacking government buildings.

The chief executive cautioned that consensus will only come in a drawn-out process.

“It will not be possible for a consensus to be reached, after all these attentions in society that we have seen,” she said. “So to me, this is one step forward, it will be a long journey to achieve reconciliation in society, let alone to return to the more normal Hong Kong that we are all very familiar with.”

Lam said last week that she and her governing team would engage directly in a public dialog with the protesters in an attempt to address social discontent.

The protests began in June against a then-proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects to mainland China courts for trial. Although the government fully dropped that bill on September 4, the protests have persisted.

In some cases, rioters have been seen throwing petrol bombs at police officers, who responded with tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets.

Lam expressed her support “for the (police) force because it is an important law enforcement agency that helps us to safeguard the rule of law.”

She said, however, that “that doesn’t mean that I would condone irregularities or wrong practices done by the police force.”

She called on “those affected individuals [to] come forward to provide their side of the story and to be undertaken in a fair and impartial manner.”

She said it was possible for potential victims to file their complaints with the Complaints against Police Office (CAPO) and the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), whose observers will look into the cases and review videos in order to form a more impartial view of what has taken place.

“We have to put our trust in these important institutions, which have kept Hong Kong going for so many years.” she added.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.

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