Hong Kong leader warns of recession if protests continue

30, Oct. 2019

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HONG KONG, Kyodo - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday warned that the months-long anti-government protests must stop if the city is to head off an economic recession, while stressing that she will not budge on protesters' demands.

The demonstrations triggered by a now-shelved extradition bill have added to the territory's economic woes, which include falling tourist numbers and slumping retail sales.

“If economic growth in the third quarter is worse than that in the second quarter, which is already in negative growth, we could be entering a technical recession,” Lam told reporters ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting. “Indeed, a negative growth for the whole 2019 could be possible. The situation is dire.”

The whole year growth figure might miss the earlier estimate of between 0 and 1 percent, Lam said.

She blamed the continuing violent protests for being the root cause of the downturn and urged for peace to be restored so as to facilitate economic revival.

“For the government to resort to measures that will appease the violent rioters, I don't think that is a solution. If there are a large number of people legitimizing the violence, or even glorifying the violence, I'm afraid it will make it even more difficult for us to tackle this situation,” she said.

Millions of people have taken to the streets since June to protest against the bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, giving Beijing sway over Hong Kong's independent judiciary.

Peaceful demonstrations have frequently ended up in violent encounters with police, leaving people injured and shops and public facilities damaged or vandalized.

Other than withdrawing the bill, the protesters' demands have widened to include an independent inquiry into police use of violent tactics against them, pardons for all those arrested and democratic reform.

Except for agreeing to pull the bill, Lam has rejected the other demands. (Kyodo)

(Carrie Lam)
(Carrie Lam)