Chief Executive Carrie Lam Chen Yuet-ngor said she would continue to lead the city government and serve Hong Kong.
Her comment on Monday came after a report in the Financial Times saying the city chief had submitted notes of resignation to the Beijing government many times, but they had been rejected.
The British newspaper quoted sources with direct knowledge of the situation, who said Beijing insisted that Lam “has to stay to clean up the mess she created” – and “no one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job.”
Lam spoke on Monday afternoon after visiting injured police at a hospital in Tai Po. Clashes erupted again on Sunday night between anti-extradition bill protesters and officers, this time in a shopping mall in Sha Tin.
Asked about the Financial Times report claiming she had tendered her resignation, Lam only said she had already stated that she wants to serve Hong Kong and will continue to do so even though she’s going through a difficult time.
She reiterated that she would continue to be “open and humble” in listening to different views from the community and finish her five-year tenure.
Hong Kong people have been calling for Lam to step down since June over her pushing of the extradition bill amendment, which would allow people facing charges to be sent to other jurisdictions including mainland China. She later declared the bill ‘dead’ and put the legislation on hold, but has not fully withdrawn it.
Lam also rejected demands by protesters, including setting up an independent inquiry to investigate alleged abuses of power by the police, and to let protesters arrested in recent clashes go free.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also denied reports on Monday that Lam had sought to resign.
Geng said he’s never heard of such claims, adding the central government firmly supports Lam and the SAR government.
The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong also said the Financial Times report was “completely unfounded”.
‘Rioters’ in Sha Tin
Meanwhile, in regard to clashes in the Sha Tin shopping mall on Sunday night, Lam likened the protesters to rioters, saying they attacked police officers “wilfully”.
The clashes resulted in 40 people being arrested, with 22 people relayed to hospital and 10 police injured during fights inside the mall after the police cleared protesters off the streets, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
“Officers were very professional and very restrained, but were met with rioters – I really think they can be described as ‘rioters’ – and attacked wilfully,” Lam said.
Lam thanked the police and expressed support for them helping to maintain order. She said the rally was peaceful during the day but degenerated later into acts that “dealt a direct blow to the rule of law” in Hong Kong.
She dismissed suggestions that some officers had let out pent-up emotions on ordinary people and journalists. She said the force had acted in accordance with its professionalism, code of conduct and guidelines.
If people thought they had been treated inappropriately or unreasonably, they could file complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Council.
Earlier, Lam attended a closed-door dinner banquet and delivered a speech to construction industry players.
Apple Daily and Ming Pao Daily quoted sources who attended the banquet as saying Lam reinstated her support for the police at a Lo Pan Patron’s Day Dinner organized by the pro-government Hong Kong Construction Association at JW Marriott Hotel in Admiralty on Friday.
Lam had choked up a bit when speaking and apologized to those at the dinner, saying the extradition bill had bought unrest to society and some families.
She allegedly remarked that her chance of attending the dinner next year “would depend on your support”.
A survey in June found that Lam had the lowest performance rating of any chief executive ever in Hong Kong.
Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, a former secretary for transport and housing, said the police should not be left in the middle of the storm over the extradition bill – “sandwiched” between the government and protesters.
He said the issue should be settled in a political way by a political leader. If society found the administration could not be tolerated, the administration should be accountable and back off.