Address protest grievances, AmCham tells Hong Kong leaders

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Hong Kong’s leaders must address the grievances fuelling nearly two months of protests, the American Chamber of Commerce said on Monday, as the business community becomes increasingly alarmed by the chaos engulfing the financial hub.

The once stable city is reeling from weeks of anti-government protests that show no sign of abating.

What began as a mass display of opposition to an extradition bill two months ago has morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that has thrown down the most significant challenge to Beijing’s authority since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

And there is growing frustration over the seeming inability – or unwillingness – of Beijing and the city’s leaders to offer compromises or a solution that might end the political crisis.

Protesters battled riot police firing teargas and rubber bullets on two consecutive days over the weekend in some of the most sustained and violent clashes since the pro-democracy movement kicked off last month.

The American Chamber of Commerce said that “a clear majority” of its members felt Hong Kong’s leaders needed to do more to address core protester demands, including an independent inquiry into the unrest and a permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill.

“The government should take immediate and tangible actions to address the root causes of recent demonstrations and restore confidence in the city’s status as Asia’s pre-eminent international business and financial centre,” the Chamber said in the statement released on Monday.

AmCham president Tara Joseph said the administration of city leader Carrie Lam needed to “show clear leadership in meeting the expectations of Hong Kong people and in restoring the city’s international reputation for effective governance”.

“A clear majority of our membership surveyed over the past week said the government needs to address the underlying causes of the protests and not simply to paper over the cracks of social instability with a short-term law-and-order fix,” she added.

The statement follows a similar rebuke from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce last week which also called for a permanent shelving of the extradition bill and an inquiry.

Lam has faced growing criticism over her response to the crisis, both from opponents but also within the civil service and the city’s pro-Beijing establishment ranks.

Beyond agreeing to postpone the widely-loathed extradition bill she has made few compromises. She has also made few public appearances in recent weeks despite the unprecedented scenes of violence – over the weekend she was pictured visiting a Chinese army barracks in the city.

Beijing has thrown its support behind Lam’s administration and issued increasingly shrill condemnations in the last two weeks, dismissing protester grievances and portraying the rallies as a foreign-funded conspiracy.

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