HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam dismissed reports of her looming replacement as "very malicious", reiterating that she had Beijing's support despite more than four months of unrest.
Mrs Lam's comments before a meeting of the city's Executive Council on Tuesday (Oct 29) came after a Financial Times report said Beijing was mulling over a plan to remove Mrs Lam after her administration failed to quell months of increasingly violent unrest.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien separately told Bloomberg News that Beijing was looking into a plan to replace the chief executive, and was considering candidates to fill Hong Kong's top job next year.
Mrs Lam called the FT report "very malicious and maybe politically driven speculation", citing similar comments last week by China's foreign ministry.
"The central government has been very supportive and remains confident that I, myself, my political team, and the Hong Kong SAR government - particularly the police - will be able to handle the situation and end violence and return Hong Kong to normal as soon as possible," Mrs Lam said, referring to the city's status as a special administrative region of China.
Mrs Lam's introduction of legislation that would allow extraditions to mainland China sparked the months of protests against Beijing's tightening grip over the former British colony. The Beijing-appointed chief executive's decision to withdraw the Bill and invoke a colonial-era emergency law to ban face masks have so far failed to stop the protests.
Mrs Lam's approval rating fell to a record low in early October, with just 15 per cent expressing confidence in her performance, according to the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.
Hong Kong's leader said she understood the concerns of the city's peaceful demonstrators, but was unable to engage in political dialogue until the violence abated. She said that people's tolerance for more radical protest tactics was making it more difficult to find a solution.
"I'm very committed to do that dialogue, to listen to people, and to change polices, and so on," she said.
"But the first thing must be to stop the violence. If there are a large number of people legitimising the violence or even glorifying the violence, I'm afraid it will make it even more difficult for us to tackle the situation."
Hong Kong is battling a rapidly worsening economic situation, with Mrs Lam calling the situation "very tough" and saying negative growth was expected for the full year.
"If the third quarter experienced negative growth from the second quarter, followed by the negative growth in the second quarter, we can say that we're entering technical recession," she said.
"The SAR government will closely monitor the economic downtrend and implement measures that are needed."
She had pledged to address the city's notoriously expensive housing prices in a major policy speech on Oct 16. She was shouted down by opposition lawmakers and forced to deliver her address by video, and later heckled in the Legislative Council.