Hong Kong's Carrie Lam promises to listen to young people in speech marking handover anniversary

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks after the annual flag-raising ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the handover from Britain to China, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 1, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday (July 1) promised to change her style of governance to make it "more open and accommodating", in a speech marking 22 years since the city was handed back to mainland China by the British.

Her first public remarks in more than a week came after early morning clashes in which riot police used pepper spray and batons at some groups of protesters.

Amid heightened security, Mrs Lam and other senior government officials witnessed a flag-raising ceremony inside the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai at 8am.

In her speech, where she acknowledged the unhappiness of the protesters over a controversial extradition Bill, she promised to "actively reach out to young people of different backgrounds through various channels to listen to their thoughts".

"The incident that happened in recent months has led to controversies and disputes between the public and the government," she said, in reference to weeks of public protests against the Bill which will allow the extradition of suspects to the mainland for the first time. The protesters are insisting that she withdraw the Bill and tender her resignation, among other demands.

"This has made me fully realise that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately," she said in tones reminiscent of the two public apologies she has made since the protests began.

"I am also fully aware that while we have good intentions, we still need to be open and accommodating. While the government has to ensure administrative efficiency, it still needs to listen patiently," she said.

She said she would initiate steps to make the government "more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community".

"We also need to reform the way we listen to public views," she added while listing the ways in which she would strengthen communication with the public and between the executive authorities and the legislature.

"I will make more time for meeting with individuals from different political parties, walks of life and backgrounds," she said.

Later on Monday afternoon, the protesters will take part in the annual handover march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front. It has drawn as many as 400,000 people in previous years.

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