Public dialogue aimed at easing HK tensions to begin next week



Hong Kong's leader said today that she would engage directly with her governing team in a dialogue with the community next week while reiterating calls for an end to the violence that has roiled the city for over three months.

Carrie Lam (photo) said the first session of dialogue would be held next week, adding the sessions would be as open as possible with members of the public able to sign up to attend.

The protest movement opposing a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed individuals convicted of a crime in China to be sent there for trial has since morphed into a broader anti-government movement pushing for greater freedom and democracy in the China-ruled city.

Lam, after months of pressure, finally capitulated to one of the protesters' demands in announcing a full withdrawal of the extradition bill on Sept 4, with Beijing's support.

"The problems go well beyond the bill," Lam told reporters, including housing and land shortages in one of the world's most densely populated cities of 7.4 million.

But some said this was too little, too late, and the protests have continued with violent clashes over the weekend, fuelled in part by widespread public anger towards perceived police brutality and abuse of power.

Over 1400 people have been arrested by the police so far.

Meanwhile, a rare train derailment disrupted services in Hong Kong today, train authorities said, threatening commuter chaos during rush hour in the heart of the Asian financial hub.

The disruption to a usually seamless network used by nearly six million people every weekday happened after a train derailed while leaving a station in the city’s Kowloon area, rail operator MTR Corp said.

Local media reported that one person was injured. MTR did not immediately give a reason for the accident.

Hong Kong’s rail system has been a target of vandalism during recent pro-democracy protests in the city with activists angry that MTR has closed stations to stop protesters gathering.

Television footage today showed hundreds of passengers trying to disembark from the derailed train. Public broadcaster RTHK said the train suddenly swayed and a door flew off before the train stopped.

Nearby stations were overcrowded with a backlog of trains unable to move and trains which normally run at two-minute intervals were delayed to run at 12-minute intervals.

Shares of MTR fell 1.1 percent in line with the broader Hang Seng Index which was down 1 percent.

- Reuters

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