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Hong Kong Leader Lam Visits Beijing as Pressure Mounts at Home

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is greeted as she arrives at a hotel in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2019.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is greeted as she arrives at a hotel in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2019.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam visited Beijing on Saturday for her first trip to the Chinese capital since her government was handed a crushing defeat in local elections last month, prompting speculation about changes to her leadership team.

During a four-day visit, Lam is due to discuss the political and economic situation in China-ruled Hong Kong with Chinese officials. She will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

Hong Kong has been convulsed by daily and sometimes violent protests for the last six months as demonstrations against a now-withdrawn extradition bill broadened into demands for greater democratic freedom.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched last Sunday to protest against what is seen as Beijing undermining freedoms guaranteed when the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997. Many young protesters are also angry at Lam's government, charging it with failing to address social inequality issues in one of the world's most expensive cities.

"Our sincerity to have dialogue with citizens has not changed," Lam said in a Facebook post on Saturday. She said her governing team would continue to pursue "different formats of dialogue to listen to citizens sincerely."

This week Lam said a cabinet reshuffle was not an "immediate task" and she would focus her efforts on restoring law and order to Hong Kong. Still there are doubts about how long Beijing is willing to back her, especially after pro-democracy candidates won nearly 90% of the seats in district elections last month.

China has condemned the unrest and blamed foreign interference. It denies that it is meddling in Hong Kong's affairs. In an editorial this week, the official China Daily newspaper called on Hong Kong's government to uphold the rule of law.

Separately, three men were arrested on Saturday and charged with testing remote-controlled explosives, police said. Police also found body armor, shields and gas masks, they said.

Police also arrested five teenagers in connection with the murder of a 70-year-old man last month and on rioting charges, the government said. The man had been hit with bricks and later died in hospital, the government said in a statement.

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