In Brief

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam trapped as protesters wait outside building

Demonstrators had surrounded location where leader held public discussion

Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam faced angry criticism at a public “dialogue session” last night.

More than 20,000 people applied to attend Thursday’s meeting, with authorities picking 150 in a lottery. It was the first time that Lam’s pro-Beijing administration had faced its critics in 16 consecutive weeks of unrest.

The Guardian says the reaction the “embattled leader” faced “laid bare anger coursing through the city” after months of pro-democracy protests.

Questions were chosen at random and, the atmosphere remained mostly calm. Of the 30 people chosen to speak throughout the evening, 24 were openly critical of the government, two were neutral and four expressed sympathy for Lam. Sky News says that the leader tried to “reason, cajole and listen to” the audience.

Lam said she was there to listen as she admitted trust in her government had “fallen off a cliff”. Brushing off suggestions that the meeting was a public relations exercise, she said: “The biggest responsibility lies with myself, I won’t shirk the responsibility.”

One attendee compared Hong Kong’s problems to cancer. “And you want to heal the illness with a few painkillers,” she said.

Another woman told the leader: “The police have become a political tool of the government and right now there is no way to check police abuses of power.”

“You say you want to listen to the people, but the people have been voicing their demands for three months,” one male attendee said.

After the event, Lam was trapped for nearly four hours as fuming protesters barred all the exits. Police wearing riot helmets and carrying protective shields were called in.

The crowd chanted pro-democracy slogans and directed lewd songs at the police. One brought a child's potty, labelled for Carrie Lam's use. A poster declared that the leader has a human face but the heart of a monster.

The meeting came as Hong Kong prepared for its 17th weekend of protests, with major marches expected on Saturday. 

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