Carrie Lam's office categorically denies report she offered to resign as Hong Kong leader

A top aide to Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has categorically denied that the embattled Hong Kong leader had offered to resign in the wake of the crisis over the controversial extradition bill.

Eric Chan Kwok-ki, director of the Chief Executive's Office, dismissed as "groundless" a Financial Times report from Sunday, citing two people whom the British daily claimed had knowledge of the situation, that Lam had volunteered to step down on several occasions in recent weeks over mass protests in the city but Beijing refused.

"The chief executive has never offered to resign nor tendered her resignation. Never," Chan told the Post.

Rumours about Lam's resignation have been circulating in the Chinese media and this is not the first time that her office has issued a denial.

During her campaign for chief executive in 2017, Lam pledged she would resign as leader if mainstream opinion went against her.

Lam spoke candidly about her difficulties amid the extradition bill crisis to members of the Hong Kong Construction Association at a private dinner on Friday night.

Sources said she made an enigmatic remark to those present that whether she might meet them again next year would depend on their support.

Eric Chan, director of the Chief Executive’s Office, said Carrie Lam had never tendered her resignation. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Huge numbers of people took to the streets last month in a series of protests to oppose the extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements, including mainland China.

The biggest protest, on June 16, drew an estimated 2 million, according to the march's organisers.

An estimated 2 million people, according to organisers, marched against the extradition bill and called on Carrie Lam to resign on June 16. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Critics feared it would remove the legal firewall between the city and the mainland, exposing suspects to opaque trials across the border.

On June 18, Lam offered her "most sincere and solemn apology" for mishandling the bill but refused to accede to protesters' call for her to resign.

She said she was "still committed, passionate and [would] work even harder".

The crisis sparked by the debacle over the bill has rocked the city for more than a month, with violent clashes between protesters and police erupting after marches in the suburban towns of Sheung Shui and Sha Tin over the weekend.

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.