HONG KONG (Reuters) – This is a transcript of a conversation held by Hong Kong General Manager Carrie Lam in front of a group of business people in the city in late August. The transcript comes from an audio recording of Lams utterances that Reuters received. Reuters released most of Lam's remarks last week and can now fully publish them.
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong, China on September 5, 2019. REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach
Persons who participated in the lecture stated that they had spoken for about half an hour. The 24-minute recording captures most of the event. Reuters has reworked the transcript in some places to remove names and questions from the audience mentioned by Lam.
For the past two years, one of the policies I have spent most of my time has been in innovation and technology. Now I personally lead the Steering Committee.
Hong Kong was turned upside down in less than three months, and my life was turned upside down. But this is not the moment for self-pity, though with [name redacted] I shared that it is extremely difficult for me to go out today. I was not in the street, not in the shopping malls, can not go to a hairdressing salon, can not do anything because my whereabouts are distributed via the social media, the telegram, the LIHKG, and you might expect a lot of black t Shirts and black masked young people is waiting for me.
I'm still brave enough to leave, and this afternoon I'm still planning to leave, when my security guards later tell me that I can still walk. But it is really true that I do not want to cause the organizers any inconvenience. But as I said, this is not the time for me to pity myself. This is a time when I come here, and from time to time I do other closed-door sessions with people from all walks of life, and the two things I said are: It's not about self-pity, it works therefore ask for forgiveness and then ask for love.
I do not want to spend your time or waste your time asking me what went wrong and why it went wrong. However, it is unforgivable that a CEO has caused this great havoc in Hong Kong. It's just unforgivable. If I have the choice, the first thing I have to say after a deep apology is to step down. That's why I ask you for forgiveness.
This is something that, no matter how well meant, should convey only this message. This is not malicious. This is not a statement of the central government. Myself and some of my key colleagues have, for a good reason, sought to close legal loopholes in the Hong Kong system, which is very much due to our sympathy for an isolated case. This has proved to be very unwise under the circumstances. And this enormous amount of fear and anxiety among the Hong Kong people in mainland China, which we did not feel and understand enough. And of course it was exaggerated and misrepresented by very effective propaganda, if I may say so.
Now I want to make a call to love. It's not about pitying or sympathizing with me, it's about love for Hong Kong. And I am sure that [name redacted] has this strong passion and love for Hong Kong.
Then the question we need to ask is how to fix it, how to fix it? I have to say that I do not have ready-made solutions because the scene changes so fast. A week ago, we thought we meant the core group within the government with some of our advisors. We thought we had a relatively peaceful weekend. Maybe this is the time to start a sincere, humble, and trying dialogue. Solve some basic problems in Hong Kong. But unfortunately the last two days have totally thrown it away again and we see escalated violence to the point of insanity. Take a look at some of these TV recordings and videos showing how police were attacked, and so on.
But, of course, I'm sure you'll feel it in your heart, and I'm sure a large number of people think I have a solution that's political. But I have to tell you that this is the point. Once a problem has been brought about – I am sure 19459024 has a better sense of it – at the national level, at a level of sovereignty and security, let alone in the midst of this kind of unprecedented tension between the two major economies of the world. The room, the political space for the Director-General, who unfortunately has two gentlemen to serve according to the Constitution, that is, the central people's government and people of Hong Kong, this political room for maneuver is very, very, very limited. Because we were unable to take such national perspectives, and I could only contribute to the situation in Hong Kong and the mood in Hong Kong. But whether these Hong Kong feelings could override national perspective and feelings? I'm sure you know that 1.4 billion people on the mainland have already figured out what's happening in Hong Kong. Without going into detail, therefore, I can only discreetly tell you that I have the opportunity to offer a political situation to ease the tensions or reduce the pressure on my frontline police to respond at least or the large number of peaceful ones To pacify protesters who are so mad at the government, especially me, dead silence in spite of repeated protests, is what saddens me the most.
Without that, Hong Kong's core value, the rule of law, is another means we have. The rule of law has different forms, of course the prosecution, our police officers who have suffered enormously this time, especially on the occasion of celebrating 175 years of police facilities, and especially at a time when they were so proud of the crime numbers that are always still sink. In fact, in the first half of Hong Kong, we still saw offenses drop by four percent, and this was the best since 1972 in Hong Kong. They also commissioned a poll to commemorate this occasion, which was not carried out by a pro-establishment group, but from [name redacted] which indicated that confidence in the police has returned to Occupy Central to a historic high. That was the background of how much the police suffered.
The rule of law therefore requires prosecution. We need to fight this escalating violence by arresting these offenders and then passing them through the judicial system, whether it's an impartial prosecution by the Department of Justice, without my having to intervene or by the central people's government and finally in court.
With a little hope that may help because we see the numbers diminishing. We started with an estimate of about one to two thousand violent protesters. In other words, they are very violent. They may not be violent by nature, but they are very violent. As described by an expert, these are the first signs of anarchism that they do not trust the establishment, they do not. It bothers them to destroy things, even if they do not know what destruction will bring.
And if you look at the various protests of yesterday, not only in Tsuen Wan area, Kwai Chung, but also in Tsim Sha Tsui, Sham Shui Po and Wong Tai Sin. At each confrontation, we're talking about at least 50 to 300, because they were flowing, so there might be some duplicates, so we might see fewer numbers. Whether it is the more than 700 arrests that we have made, that are a bit of a deterrent, or some of those factions, we have not done a full analysis yet, but we hope that with these efforts we will be able to I already said I am very honest with you, it would be naive for me to paint you a rosy picture that things are alright or I have a deadline. But I can assure you that Beijing has no time limit. They know that this will continue. That's why we made special arrangements and there will be a national holiday on October 1st, but it still causes a lot of disruption. So we're going to celebrate a modest but solemn kind of celebration on the 1st of October, which means that she and we have no expectations that we could sort it out before October 1st.
Another thing I want to assure you is that I'm feeling the pulse and that the CPG (Central People's Government) has absolutely no plan to send the PLA through discussions. You're doing something like deeds that you know are in the Communist Party. They are just scared now. Because they know that the price is too high to pay him. Maybe they are not interested in Hong Kong, but in "one country, two systems". They are interested in the international profile of the country. It took a long time for China to build such an international profile and to have a say that it is not just a big economy, but also a responsible big economy. Therefore, it is not on the agenda to give up all these positive developments. But they are willing to play long, they are willing to play long, so there is no short-term solution, Hong Kong suffers, you lose tourism, business, you lose your IPOs and stuff, but you can not do much about it. But when all is clear, the country will be on hand with perhaps positive action, especially in the Greater Bay Area. So our work on the Greater Bay Area has not stopped. We are still making suggestions for the Greater Bay Area, especially something the markets would like to hear. This is a comprehensive environmental protection plan developed by [name redacted]. She retired from the government and I hired her part-time to create this environmental protection plan for the entire Greater Bay Area in terms of biodiversity, air standards, water, etc.
So, what could [name redacted] help us? Of course, each of you has your own circle, you have your own friends, you have your own connections, you have your business contacts. So try to impress them that we really must put an end to the violence completely foreign in Hong Kong and try, as I said, to appeal for understanding and love. We love this place, we love the people here. People used to be very peaceful and inclusive and so on. Instead of commenting on any topic, be it your friend or your enemy, and so on.
When the time comes, Hong Kong has survived the deaths of some people before 1997. I'm pessimistic at this point, but Hong Kong is not dead yet. Maybe it's very, very sick, but not dead. We still have the basics here, we still have the nation behind us. So Hong Kong has to go through several stages. The first is to eradicate the violence, perhaps in the coming time to do other things that are not very available at the moment. When we have gone through this phase, the next phase according to the Bible will be resurrection. We have to return to life, to some life. Then we want a reborn Hong Kong and a relaunch of this brand in Hong Kong. [name redacted]
After her presentation, Lam answered questions.
Asked about the impact of protests at schools and universities, Lam said:
Well, thank you [name redacted]. We will continue to help the schools. I meet a group of school leaders this week together with the secretary for education. Let me answer your question in general. I know that certain factions in society have the feeling that they are not firm and strong enough for these demonstrators. The difficulty, of course, is to argue over and over again that, given the majority of public views and people's feelings, anger and fear, and so forth, too strong a government position could be counterproductive. It is true that our research into the experience of combating unrest overseas required this strength. For example, in the riots in Tottenham in 2011, 15,000 rioters involved were arrested and 1,000 jailed after a very quick trial. From start to finish is 5-6 weeks, by special courts, night meals, 24 hours. What would you think the Supreme Judge's reaction would be if I said to him, "Could you have Special Courts and Night Courts to clear all these cases?" We have now arrested over 700. So there are solutions that can be easily implemented in other countries and can not be used in Hong Kong.
The second factor is beside the 30,000 men and women in the force we have, nothing. Really. We have nothing. I do not have anything. We avoid that. This means that, in everything we do, we have to fully take into account the judgment and the reactions of the police in order to give them powers that they could not enforce because they are outnumbered. Not only are they inferior in numbers to the violent demonstrators, but also to the people, which makes enforcement extremely difficult in terms of crowd management and mass dispersal. So I'm not saying that we are not thinking about some of these stricter measures, just to explain to you that the situation in Hong Kong is very difficult, especially with the media. And this may be one of the weakest limbs of Hong Kong or the weakest limbs of the government that we do not have strong enough, I would not say propaganda, I dare not say that the government operates propaganda, but at least in terms of dissemination of Factual information we are very, very weak. If we survive this crisis, there will be a large number of conversions that I have to do to leave a better situation for my successor, because there are so many weak parts in the government that we have not fully understood. We have realized a bit, but we have not fully realized that it can be so bad when we get into a crisis or get into a crisis.
In response to a suggestion from the public regarding government public relations:
I am not aware of this 120-page document [name redacted]. But what I've asked for is a little bit outdated from the events that took place almost a month ago, when we were optimistic that we were experiencing some sort of peaceful moment when we could start thinking about a new start in Hong Kong. So, we sent something from the Information Services Department and invited eight such global public relations companies, but unfortunately four immediately refused, as this would undermine their reputation for supporting the Hong Kong SAR government, and two subsequently rejected a request for a meeting. So we only have two more. I am pleased to meet these two remaining individuals in person to see what kind of advice they have, but their advice will only become more relevant once we have gone through this period.
This is also a very difficult moment for us as people are taking sides and are very worried about what they call this "white terror", this annoyance to them. Revealing details [in Cantonese]. And so it is not even very difficult for us to get a production house or design studio where things are done for us, so things have to be done in-house or on the mainland. On the mainland this causes problems. At the smart lampposts, someone discovered that the blanks were from a factory in Shanghai, and then they made a big story out of it. But when the time comes, I certainly take your advice that we should cut down some of this bureaucracy and talk to the people who could help if they're ready to help.
Transcript of James Pomfret and Greg Torode in Hong Kong. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.