- Chief executive paying duty visit to capital this weekend
- Speculation over changes has increased after justice secretary Teresa Cheng reportedly asked to resign last month
Hong Kong's beleaguered leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has brushed aside "rumours and speculation" of a cabinet reshuffle ahead of her imminent duty visit to Beijing, saying the government has listened to the people after Sunday's huge protest rally.
Meeting the media on Tuesday ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam did not answer questions on whether national security legislation would be discussed during her trip to the capital this weekend.
However, she did respond to continued suggestions of a reshuffle, rumours further fuelled by media reports that her justice secretary, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, asked to resign last month.
"From time to time in the last few months, there have always been some rumours and speculation about a reshuffling of our team, including the principal officials and the executive councillors," Lam said.
"My first priority now is to restore law and order in Hong Kong … (reshuffling) is not an immediate task that I would afford the attention to."
The chief executive, her cabinet and her ministerial team have been under increasing pressure from the public to be held accountable for the fiasco of the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which triggered widespread protests. Hong Kong has been swept up in chaos and violence since June.
Speaking on Tuesday, which is Human Rights Day around the world, Lam also insisted the city's rights and freedoms had not been eroded, and lawmakers should refrain from "bad-mouthing" Hong Kong.
She said a major protest march on Sunday " which attracted 800,000 people, by organisers' estimates " reflected the freedoms Hongkongers enjoy. But, while acknowledging the procession was largely peaceful, she condemned those who firebombed the High Court and Court of Final Appeal buildings.
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Asked if she would heed protesters' demands for an independent inquiry into police and amnesty for those arrested, she said her administration had been listening to the public for several months.
"In the past few months, no matter the march turnout or format, we have listened to the people with our hearts, hoping the public could feel our sincerity in our response," she said.
But she said any response could not deviate from the principle of the rule of law, and the government had made the most direct response by withdrawing the extradition bill.
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