After her talk, Lam answered questions.
In answer to a question about the impact of the protests on schools and universities, Lam said:
Well, thank you very much [name redacted]. We will continue to help the schools. I am meeting a group of school principals within this week together with the secretary for education. Let me just answer your question in a very general way. I know certain factions in society have the feeling that we are not firm and strong enough vis-a-vis these protesters. But the difficulty is, of course, is always coming up with an argument that in the light of the majority of the public views and the people’s sentiments, this anger and this fear and so on, too strong a position of the government could be counterproductive.
Although our research into overseas experiences in combating riots did require that sort of forcefulness. For example, in 2011, in Tottenham riots 15,000 rioters involved, 2,000 were arrested, 1,000 put to prison following a very quick process. From start to finish is 5-6 weeks, through special courts, night courts, 24 hours. What would you imagine to be the Chief Justice’s reaction if I were to tell him, ‘could you have special courts, night courts, in order to clear all these cases?’ We have arrested 700-plus now. So there are solutions that will be readily deployed in other countries that cannot be used in Hong Kong.
The second factor is apart from the 30,000 men and women in the force we have nothing. Really. We have nothing. I have nothing. That’s something, is something we avoid. So that means that whatever we do we have to take into full account the police assessment and reactions, so to give them some powers which they could not enforce because they’re outnumbered. They’re outnumbered not necessarily just by the violent protesters, they’re outnumbered just by people, which makes enforcement extremely difficult in terms of crowd management and crowd dispersal.
So I’m not saying that we are not thinking about some of those firmer measures but just to explain to you that in the Hong Kong situation it’s very difficult, especially with the media. And this is perhaps one of Hong Kong’s weakest links, or the government’s weakest links, that we don’t have a strong enough, sort of, I wouldn’t say propaganda, I dare not say government carries out propaganda, but at least in terms of dissemination of factual information we are very, very weak. If we survive this crisis, well there will be a large number of revamping that I need to do in order to leave behind a better situation for my successor because there are so many weak parts in the government, which we have not fully realized. We did realize a bit, but we did not fully realize that it could be that bad, when we are going into, or right into, a crisis.
I’m not aware of that 120-page document [name redacted]. But what I have asked for, but that is a little bit overtaken by events, that was almost a month ago, when we optimistically thought that we would have some sort of peaceful moments, that we could start to think about relaunching Hong Kong. So we sent out something by the information services department and invited eight such global PR companies, but unfortunately four immediately declined because that would be a detriment to their reputation to support the Hong Kong SAR government now, and two subsequently also turned away a request for meetings. So we’re left with two. I’m happy to meet with these two remaining personally, to see what advice they have, but their advice will only be more relevant after we have gone through this period.
This is also a very difficult moment for us because people take sides, and people are very worried about what they call this ‘white terror,’ this harassment on them. The revealing of details [in Cantonese]. And so it’s not even very difficult for us to get a production house, a design studio to do things for us, so things have to be done in-house or in the mainland. In the mainland then this causes problems. The smart lamp posts, somebody discovered that the raw parts came from a Shanghai factory and then they made a big story out of it again. But when the time comes, I certainly take up your advice that we should remove some of this bureaucracy and start talking to the people who could help, if they are willing to help.