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Hong Kong leader says biggest responsibility for ending crisis lies with govt

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (C) arrives to take part in a town hall meeting at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong on September 26, 2019, with some 150 people picked via lottery after more than 20,000 people applied to attend the event.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday she should hold talks with the people no matter how difficult as she opened the first "open dialogue" sessions in a bid to end nearly four months of sometimes violent protests.

She also said the biggest responsibility for resolving the crisis lies with the government.

Beijing-backed Lam was holding talks with 150 members of the community, with each participant to be given around three minutes to express their views, as hundreds of anti-government protesters chanted slogans outside the meeting's venue.

Many of the 70 people randomly chosen to ask questions among the 150 allowed inside were visibly emotional, and they did not mince words, at times ending their allotted three minutes by reciting a phrase often heard during raucous street protests: “five demands, not one less.”

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They expressed anger over the detention of protesters, asked why the government had so far refused to appoint an independent panel to investigate allegations of police brutality, and one woman lobbed an insult at Lam and demanded she resign.

“You may be a really smart official and I believe you are really tough but you are not fit to rule,” the woman said, drawing hearty applause from the audience.

Before the session began, hundreds of protesters formed a human chain outside the stadium and chanted slogans demanding that the chief executive meet their demands, among them an independent investigation into allegations of excessive force by police and amnesty for the more than 1,500 protesters who have been arrested over the past three months. Mrs Lam has previously rejected those demands.

“This forum is just a political stunt because our demands have always been clear but she has never listened to us,” said Amanda Au, 15, who came directly from school and was wearing a crisp white school uniform and a black face mask.