Country Risk

Further large-scale protests highly likely in Hong Kong, increase likelihood of CE stepping down beyond one-year outlook

20 June 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference to address recent protests against an extradition bill on 18 June 2019 in Hong Kong. Source: Carl Court/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are expected to escalate protests in the coming weeks if the government is unable to address their demands.

  • Large-scale protests involving more than 100,000 people and potentially above 1 million protesters in the Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, and Admiralty areas in Hong Kong Island are highly likely in the following weeks. Chief Executive (CE) Carrie Lam’s televised apology on 18 June offered no concessions beyond the previously mentioned temporary suspension of the extradition bill. Social media response to Lam’s statement suggests that pro-democracy groups are highly likely to organise further demonstrations. Similar to previous weeks, crowds of more than 100,000 people, at times more than 1 million, can be expected between Victoria Park and Tamar, Admiralty, with 1 July – a public holiday commemorating the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China – being a particular target for peak-level protests. These protests will probably continue to be organised at least until the Legislative Council’s scheduled summer recess, which begins on 20 July.
  • There is an increasing likelihood that Lam will not finish her term, currently set to end on 30 June 2022. Lam’s popularity has been substantially damaged across the political spectrum in pro-democracy and pro-establishment political camps by the introduction and subsequent suspension of the extradition law, increasing the likelihood that she will step down beyond the one-year outlook. Historical precedent for an early resignation includes Hong Kong’s first CE, Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned 18 months following protests of 500,000 people in 1 July 2003 against proposed National Security legislation. Should Lam manage to remain in office for the remainder of her three-year term, she will probably face major pushback in upcoming policies such as the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, one of her flagship development projects, and other livelihood-related policies such as the development of public housing and additional financial support for hi-tech industries.

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