The Speech Carrie Lam Should Have Made

Last Saturday I stood before you and announced that the government would be suspending its efforts to pass the controversial extradition bill. I had hoped that this decision would temper the anger harbored by many Hong Kongers over the way the government had mishandled and in some cases ignored the objections raised by many interested parties against passage of the extradition law. I said then that rather than continue with our efforts to pass the bill, it was time to take a breather and step back to assess the situation.

On Sunday the public responded to my decision to suspend passage of the bill with still more protests. We saw Hong Kongers of all ages and from all walks of life exercise their freedoms, taking peacefully to the streets in record numbers to tell the government, and myself in particular, that they were still dissatisfied with the status quo.

I understand now that more needs to be done. Because the problem lies not simply in the extradition bill but in the differing visions of what Hong Kong will become ten, twenty years from now. For many Hong Kongers, especially among our youth, there exists a fear that the freedoms and rights they have enjoyed or have become accustomed to will be taken away from them as Hong Kong inches closer to the year when the guarantee of ‘one country, two systems’ will expire. That is a concern that this government, as the sole representative of the Hong Kong people, needs to address.

The government is not infallible. It is fundamentally a creation of human thought and human ideas. Laws that have, at one time, won the approval of the government and the public are sometimes revised or rescinded in their entirety because they lose their relevance or because they no longer reflect the values of contemporary society. So too people who were once elected or appointed to public office leave their posts because their policies and stances no longer reflect prevailing public norms. And that is as it should be in a democratic, transparent, and compassionate society like ours.

So today I announce that I will be resigning as Chief Executive. My vision of what Hong Kong should be or will be is not in line with that shared by many of my fellow Hong Kongers. And to try and push through the measures that I think are necessary to achieve this vision will only create more conflict, more bloodshed, and more hurt.

At this point in time it is appropriate and necessary for the people of Hong Kong, including our youth, to come together and to engage in a dialogue about what kind of Hong Kong they want to see in the future. It is a dialogue that will no doubt be fraught, contentious and painful. But it is one that needs to be had. Because only when we have a clear idea of the kind of Hong Kong we want will we be able to make the kinds of decisions and form the kinds of plans that we will need to realize that vision.

The spirit of Hong Kong is strong and it is just. I know that. You know that. And the world now knows that. Let us harness that spirit in unity and with mutual respect for one another as we work toward building a better, more hopeful future for Hong Kong.

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