Hong Kong's Carrie Lam vows to have more open and accommodating leadership style

HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN) - Acknowledging public anger over the extradition Bill, she promised to "actively reach out to young people of different backgrounds through various channels".

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who started her third year in office yesterday with the lowest approval ratings for a Hong Kong leader, pledged to change her style of governance to make it "more open and accommodating".

Mrs Lam's first public remarks in more than a week came in a speech marking 22 years since the city was handed back to China by the British.

Acknowledging public anger over the extradition Bill, she promised to "actively reach out to young people of different backgrounds through various channels to listen to their thoughts".

"I am also fully aware that while we have good intentions, we still need to be open and accommodating. While the government has to ensure administrative efficiency, it still needs to listen patiently," she said.

Amid heightened security, Mrs Lam and senior government officials witnessed a live broadcast of the flag-raising ceremony from inside the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai at 8am, marking the moment of the city's handover in 1997.

Officials said the main celebrations were moved indoors for the first time in the ceremony's history because of "inclement weather", even as protesters started gathering on the streets.

Mrs Lam, together with Hong Kong and Chinese officials, then raised their champagne glasses in a toast to unification.

Mrs Lam's ratings, in a public opinion poll that was published by the University of Hong Kong last week, plunged to 32.8 per cent, the lowest level for a Hong Kong leader.

The protesters are insisting that she withdraw the Bill which, if passed, would allow extradition to mainland China. They also want her to resign.

"This has made me fully realise that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately," Mrs Lam said in tones reminiscent of the two public apologies she has made since the protests began.

The Hong Kong leader said she would initiate steps to make the government "more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community".

"I will make more time for meeting with individuals from different political parties, walks of life and backgrounds," she said.

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