Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has announced she will meet 150 members of the public next Thursday as part of the city government’s efforts to ease the unrest that has boiled over since she introduced an amendment of the Fugitive Ordinance in June, but people online have suggested boycotting or besieging the venue in Wan Chai where the dialogue will be held.
The amendment, since shelved, would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to the mainland.
Lam and some principal officials will attend the first “Community Dialogue” session next Thursday from 7pm to 9pm at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island, according to a government release.
Only 150 people will be invited, chosen by a computer lot draw, to the event after submitting their applications at Home Affairs Inquiry Centers or online until noon on Monday.
Queen Elizabeth Stadium can accommodate 3,500 people.
The successful applicants will be notified by Tuesday.
A guidance note for those wishing to register online to attend the event says participants can express their personal views regards of political stances or background and that government representatives will listen in a sincere, open and inclusive manner.
It reminded participants to expect tight security, including bag checks and registration of their identity cards, at the stadium.
Those selected won’t be allowed to carry items such as flags, umbrellas, or “defensive equipment” such as mask respirators and helmets – the standard gear of protesters – to the venue. Bottles and canned drinks will not be allowed into the stadium either.
Authorities say they will also be able to deny entry or remove any person from the venue.
Some people called for a boycott, saying there’s no room for any dialogue as protesters have clearly expressed their five demands over the past three months, while some others called for people to besiege the stadium on Thursday.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan said she did not have high expectations as the government had set up so many restrictions.
Starry Lee Wai-king, a lawmaker and chairwoman of the pro-Beijing political party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she understood how security could be a concern and advised that the dialogue to be done online.
Lam has been under pressure to reach out to people to find a way to end the current crisis, which started with her proposal of the so-called extradition bill in June and snowballed into a wide-ranging crisis covering demands for an independent commission of inquiry on excessive police force and the implementation of universal suffrage.
She earlier told media that the dialogue platforms would be launched in three forms, allowing anyone to take part depending on their circumstances. Besides the Thursday event, the other two forms would be officials meeting randomly selected groups, and discussions with representatives from different sectors.
On Wednesday, the government invited 458 district councilors to a gathering at the Central Government Offices in Admiralty but only 98 showed up. Only 38 of the attendees were chosen to speak via a draw, including five from the pan-democratic camp. They were allowed to speak with a time limit of three minutes each.
Nearly 40 police officers and security guards were deployed to the venue.
During the meeting, Lam did not respond to each of the suggestions made by the councilors, but she acknowledged that the government had failed to address livelihood issues proactively.
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said on Friday that the city-wide “Clean Hong Kong” campaign would go ahead as planned on Saturday.
Ho earlier promoted the campaign, saying 30,000 people would be recruited to tear down all the Post-it messages on all Lennon Walls and other areas damaged by the protesters.
But the police said on Thursday that the event organizer had withdrawn an application for a letter of no objection.
The controversial lawmaker explained on his Facebook late on Thursday that he had indeed withdrawn the application simply because he didn’t see a need to seek approval from the police.
Ho’s campaign had sparked fears of another weekend of violence between pro- and anti-government people. A number of clashes broke out in various districts last weekend.
At its daily press conference on Friday, the police force said it was aware of the clean-up campaign and appealed for calm.
Police Superintendent Fang Chi-kin said the Lennon Walls had been the sites where some attacks and assaults took place over the past three months, and he urged people to express their views in an orderly and peaceful manner.
He said criminal liability over destroyed property would depend on the circumstances.
Protesters have said they will defend themselves if attacked during the campaign.