HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's leader on Tuesday again ruled out further concessions to protesters who marched peacefully in their hundreds of thousands this past weekend, days before she is to travel to Beijing for regularly scheduled meetings with Communist Party leaders.
The six-month protest movement has five demands, including that the leader of the semi-autonomous city and lawmakers all be directly elected and that police actions against protesters be independently investigated. The only demand that has been met was the withdrawal of proposed extradition legislation that triggered the movement in June.
But city leader Carrie Lam made clear she won't budge on the others.
“As for other demands, we really have to stick by certain important principles," she said. “If a particular demand requires us to deviate from the law, not to uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong, or to do things actually beyond the powers of the chief executive, I could not agree to accept those demands.”
One of the protest movement's demands is amnesty for the more than 6,000 people arrested.
Lam said that wasn't legally possible.
The protest march Sunday on Hong Kong Island was one of the biggest since mass demonstrations began against the now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.
Organizers estimated that 800,000 people joined Sunday's rally. Protesters chanted “Five demands, not one less!” and held up five fingers. Unlike recent smaller-scale events, the rally was relatively peaceful, although police and protesters engaged in occasional standoffs and court buildings were lightly damaged with graffiti and gasoline bombs.
Lam said the march “reflects the freedoms that Hong Kong people are enjoying" and showed that “all those accusations from various quarters that we are eroding people's freedoms are unsubstantiated."
Lam said she will fly to Beijing on Saturday for twice-a-year meetings at which she offers leaders a “full account of what has happened in Hong Kong over the past year." While security is expected to be high on the agenda, Lam said she will also discuss economic initiatives, reflecting concerns over a sharp slowdown in Hong Kong's tourism, retail and logistics sectors.
She said she will explain “what the government had been doing, what more does the government want to do in the coming year, and what are the policy measures that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region needs from the central government in taking forward some of our major initiatives."