Amid protests and talk of reshuffles, Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam flies to Beijing to meet Xi Jinping

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年12月14日16:12 • Tony Cheung in Beijing
  • Carrie Lam also scheduled to meet Vice-Premier Han Zheng, the state leader overseeing city affairs, as well as president and premier
  • Pundits have warned that, after disappointment in local elections, top officials could broach plans to replace Lam or some of her ministers
Carrie Lam arrives to a hotel in Beijing on Saturday. Photo: EPA

Hong Kong's leader arrived in Beijing for her annual duty visit on Saturday, with sources saying she was expected to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Monday to report the latest developments from a city gripped for six months by anti-government unrest.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was also scheduled to meet Vice-Premier Han Zheng, the state leader overseeing Hong Kong and Macau affairs, over dinner on Saturday.

Zhang Xiaoming, head of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was expected to attend the dinner. But, unlike in previous years, no separate meeting had been arranged for Lam to meet Zhang personally.

After meeting Lam on Monday, Xi will visit Macau on Wednesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the casino hub's return from Portuguese rule and officiate at the inauguration of the city's new leader and cabinet on Friday.

All eyes on President Xi as Carrie Lam heads to Beijing for duty visit

When Lam met Han last month, the vice-premier described the violent protests in Hong Kong as "extreme and destructive acts" that would not be tolerated in any country in the world. He said ending the turmoil was the responsibility of the entire administration " the executive, legislature and judiciary.

Commentators previously told the Post that Xi could use Lam's visit to brief her on issues ranging from protecting national security to rebuilding ties with the pro-establishment camp.

Lam did not answer media questions as she arrived at Hong Kong airport on Saturday morning. When she arrived at her hotel in Beijing that afternoon, she was asked whether her meetings with state leaders would touch on national security legislation. She ignored those questions too.

Some pundits had warned that, with pro-Beijing -politicians' unprecedented losses in district council polls last month, state leaders could discuss with the chief executive plans to replace her or some of her ministers.

Lam's deputy, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, was asked on Saturday if a cabinet reshuffle would be on the agenda for Lam's meeting with Xi. But he said he would leave it to the chief executive to comment on Monday.

"We will continue to do our utmost to tackle difficulties. We are determined in handling the challenges, and we believe that we can overcome them," Cheung said.

The unrest in Hong Kong, now in its seventh month, was sparked in June by anger at a government bill which would have allowed transfers of fugitives to jurisdictions with which the city lacks a formal extradition agreement. By the time officials withdrew the legislation, the demonstrations had grown into a wider anti-government movement.

Xi Jinping will visit Macau on Wednesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city's return from Portuguese rule. Photo: Reuters

Protesters and police have regularly clashed on city streets, the former hurling bricks and petrol bombs, and the latter using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Separately, Lam wrote on her Facebook page on Saturday that, starting from this month, her ministers would use live streams on the site to explain policies and engage residents.

"The secretary for commerce and economic development and the secretary for labour and welfare will be the first ones to do so in the coming two weeks, and others will follow suit," she wrote.

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