Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam offered to go but Beijing said no: report

Beijing: Hong Kong's embattled chief executive Carrie Lam offered to resign as protests rocked the city but her political masters in Beijing refused, it has been reported.

The Financial Times, citing two unnamed sources, said Lam had made several offers to resign as the leader as protest marches brought up to 2 million people onto Hong Kong streets.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.Credit:Bloomberg

Protesters have been calling for Lam to resign, and the revelation she has been unable to do so because she answers first to the Chinese leadership in Beijing and not the voters of Hong Kong, is likely to deepen their disillusionment with Hong Kong's political system.

Protests on Sunday night again turned violent, but this time in the suburbs, as riot police armed with batons and wearing khaki chased and fired pepper spray at protesters carrying umbrellas in a glossy shopping centre in Sha Tin in the New Territories, which borders mainland China.

The clashes amid luxury boutiques at New Town Plaza broke out after dark after a march that drew around 100,000 people in Sha Tin.

Riot police stand off against demonstrators in front of a Bally store inside New Town Plaza shopping mall.Credit:Bloomberg

Photographs showed blood smeared across the glossy white floor of the mall.

Hong Kong-based Australian lawyer Antony Dapiran wrote on social media: "These scenes are just mind-boggling. Sunday is traditionally family day out in Hong Kong, and this is the largest mall for shopping/dining in an area surrounded by residential towers."

Protesters had pelted police with umbrellas and water bottles from the upper galleries of the mall.

Umbrella movement founder and secretary general of the student political party Demosisto, Joshua Wong, said two Demosisto members were arrested at the Sha Tin protest.

Despite Lam declaring last week that the extradition bill – the spark that lit the protest movement's fuse – would die a natural death, protests continued at the weekend and met with a tougher response from police.

On Saturday protesters marched in the border town of Sheung Shui, close to mainland China's Shenzhen, to denounce "parallel trading" by mainland Chinese who came to Hong Kong to buy goods such as baby products more cheaply and then sell them back into mainland cities. Police cleared the streets with batons and pepper spray.

Earlier on Sunday, Hong Kong media workers had marched in central Hong Kong to protest police violence against journalists.

The South China Morning Post reported that protesters in Sha Tin on Sunday were supported by residents from apartment tower blocks who threw down water bottles, umbrellas and plastic wrap.

Riot police clashes with demonstrators inside New Town Plaza shopping mall in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong, China.Credit:Bloomberg

Resisting calls from protesters and pro-democracy politicians in the Legislative Council to legally withdraw the extradition bill, Lam has instead said she will seek to engage with Hong Kong's youth and deliver a new style of leadership. She also told media she intended to serve out her five-year term.

But the Financial Times story quoted one source as saying Beijing would not let Lam resign because "No one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job."

Lam has previously said that Beijing wasn't behind the extradition bill – which would allow a criminal suspect in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face charges under the communist legal system – and it was her initiative.

The eruption of protests in Hong Kong comes as the Chinese leadership in Beijing faces a slowing economy, a trade war with the United States and a backlash against China's top technology company, Huawei, by the US.

Blood stains are seen next to umbrellas on the ground following the clashes.Credit:Bloomberg

Lam met with Chinese vice premier Han Zheng the day before she suspended the extradition bill in June, and a "task force" in Shenzhen has been monitoring the situation in Hong Kong, Hong Kong media reported last month.

Lam was elected chief executive in 2017 after winning 777 votes out of 1158 from an electoral committee. Under Hong Kong's Basic Law she is accountable to the central government in Beijing and Hong Kong.

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