Exclusive: The Chief Executive ‘has to serve two masters’ – HK leader Carrie Lam – full transcript

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses a news conference in Hong Kong, China September 5, 2019. The red dot is created by the recording light of a television camera. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

HONG KONG (Reuters) – This is a transcript of a talk given in late August by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to a group of businesspeople in the city.

The transcript is taken from an audio recording of Lam’s remarks that was obtained by Reuters.

Last week, Reuters published most of Lam’s remarks and is now able to publish them in full.

People who attended the talk say she spoke for about a half hour. The recording, which runs 24 minutes, captures the bulk of the event.

Reuters has redacted the transcript in a few spots to remove names mentioned by Lam and questions asked by the audience.

In less than three months’ time, Hong Kong has been turned upside down, and my life has been turned upside down.

But this is not the moment for self-pitifulness, although I shared with [name redacted] that nowadays it’s extremely difficult for me to go out.

I have not been on the streets, not in the shopping malls, can’t go to a hair salon, can’t do anything because my whereabouts will be spread around the social media, the Telegram, the LIHKG, and you could expect a big crowd of black T-shirts and black-masked young people waiting for me.

I’m still brave enough to go and this afternoon, I’m still planning to go if my security guards tell me later on that I can still go.

But it’s really, I don’t want to cause disruption, inconvenience to the organizers. But as I said, this is not the time for me to self-pity myself.

This is a time I come here, and I do other closed-door sessions from time to time with people from all walks of life, and the two things I said is, it’s not about self-pityness, it’s about making a plea for forgiveness and then appeal for love.

I don’t want to spend your time, or waste your time, for you to ask me what went wrong, and why it went wrong.

But for a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable. It’s just unforgivable.

If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down. So I make a plea to you for your forgiveness.

This is something that no matter how well intended, I just want to put this message across. This is not something malicious. This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government.

This is out of a good intention, myself and some of my key colleagues to try to plug legal loopholes in Hong Kong’s system, very much prompted by our compassion for a single case, and this has proven to be very unwise given the circumstances.

And this huge degree of fear and anxiety amongst people of Hong Kong vis-a-vis the mainland of China, which we were not sensitive enough to feel and grasp. And, of course, it has been exaggerated and misrepresented through very effective propaganda, if I may say so.

Now I want to make an appeal for love. It’s not to pity me, or to sympathize with me, but love for Hong Kong. And I’m sure [name redacted] have that strong passion and love for Hong Kong.

Then the question we need to ask, each one of us, is how to fix it, how to fix it? I have to say that I have no sort of ready solutions, because the scene changes so quickly.

A week ago, we thought – ‘we’ means the core group within the government with some of our advisers – we thought that we have a relatively peaceful weekend, perhaps that’s the time to start a dialogue with sincerity, with humility, and trying to get some of Hong Kong’s fundamental issues resolved.

But, unfortunately, the last two days have again totally thrown that away and we are seeing escalated violence to the degree of being insane.

If you look at some of these TV footage and videos of how policemen have been attacked and so on.

But, of course, I’m sure in your hearts you will feel, and I’m sure a large number of people feel that I do have a solution, that is a political one.

But I have to tell you that this is where the crux of the matter lies. Once an issue has been elevated to the situation – I’m sure [name redacted] has a better feel of that – to a national level, to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.

The room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.

Because we were not trained to have that sort of national perspectives, and I could only keep on putting in what I feel is the Hong Kong situation and the Hong Kong sentiments.

But whether those Hong Kong sentiments could override the national perspective and the national sentiments? I’m sure you know that now 1.4 billion mainland people already have formed a view about what is happening in Hong Kong.

So, without going into a lot more details, I can only share with you discreetly that the room for me to offer a political situation in order to relieve the tension, nor to reduce the pressure on my frontline police officers in order to at least respond, or pacify the large number of peaceful protesters who are so angry with the government, with me in particular, of absolutely dead silence despite repeated participation in the protests, is what causes me the biggest sadness.

 

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