【明報專訊】REUTERS has published a 24‑minute audio recording of Carrie Lam's closed‑door meeting with the business sector last week. Reuters stresses that the dialogue captured in the recording has been verified by three attendees of the meeting. The Office of the Chief Executive and Carrie Lam have not denied its authenticity, only saying that she met with the business sector earlier, and those who attended the meeting knew that they had to adhere to the "non‑disclosure" principle. Lam says she is "extremely disappointed" by the leakage of conversation made on a private occasion, saying that it was "unacceptable".
In the recording, Carrie Lam says that she has caused "unforgivable havoc", and that "if I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down". She says that what has caused her the biggest sadness is that she has failed to bring about a political situation in order to relieve the tension. She says that the issue has been elevated "to a national level, to a sort of sovereignty and security level", and that "in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world", "political room for manoeuvring is very, very, very limited".
As antagonism and scepticism permeate Hong Kong society, all kinds of conspiracy theories have their respective followers. Conjectures abound as to the motives behind those who leaked the recording. Some have suggested that the leakage shows that there is a faction within the pro‑establishment camp that intends to "bring down Carrie Lam". Some have queried whether everything was a "play" arranged and performed by the government itself to defend itself by sending a message to the public that it is powerless to soften its stance. Carrie Lam has categorically denied that the government was behind the leakage. In all fairness, even if the leakage was an elaborate public relations exercise, the government knows very well that no matter what Carrie Lam has said, it will not achieve any public relations aims judging from the public sentiments. Likewise, even if the leakage was intended to drive a wedge between the central government and Carrie Lam, the scheme is unlikely to succeed given the fact that the central government, most concerned about "stopping violence and curbing disorder" at the moment, will definitely throw its weight behind Carrie Lam. Getting entangled in conspiracy theories and conjectures gets us nowhere. It is better to direct our effort to finding a way out.
Recently there has been a view circulating on the mainland that the ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong is a result of many people's acquiescence to violence. If this is the choice of Hong Kong society, the theory goes, then just let Hong Kong degenerate. After all, China can withstand the impact, and it is necessary for the central government to "stick to its guns". Such a view is not so much about waiting for Hong Kong to "rise from the ashes" as about letting Hong Kong languish until the turn of the tide of public opinion. If that happens in Hong Kong, it will be an out‑and‑out apocalypse for the city. While society has to say "no" to violence loud and clear, the central and SAR governments must also prevent Hong Kong from going down this path. The crisis in Hong Kong should be handled through the established mechanism and in the same way as such crises were handled in the past. The formal withdrawal of the amendment bill and an independent investigation are still the most feasible way to address public discontent. If violence persists after the SAR government has done so, the public will know who is right and who is wrong itself. The SAR government might think that the room for political manoeuvre is limited, but it should still try to persuade the central government into approving these two actions to solve the crisis.
abound : to exist in great numbers or quantities
acquiescence : the fact of being willing to do what sb wants and to accept their opinions, even if you are not sure that they are right
apocalypse : a situation causing very serious damage and destruction