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Profile: Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) July 1, 2017

Protests in Hong Kong as Xi swears in new leader
Hong Kong (AFP) July 1, 2017 - President Xi Jinping swore in new Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Saturday as the politically divided city marked 20 years since it was handed back to China by Britain, with clashes between pro and anti-Beijing protesters close to the ceremony.

Lam was selected by a pro-Beijing committee, as were her predecessors, and is already being cast by critics as a China stooge in a city where many are angry at Beijing's tightening grip on the freedoms of nearly eight million people.

She took her oath of office under China's national flag at the city's harbourfront convention centre, before shaking hands with Xi.

Lam's inauguration comes a day after Beijing's foreign ministry declared that the document signed by Britain and China which initiated the handover "is no longer relevant."

The Sino-British Joint Declaration gave Hong Kong rights unseen on the mainland through a semi-autonomous "one country, two systems" agreement, lasting 50 years.

There are growing fears that those freedoms are now under threat from an assertive Beijing, with Chinese authorities accused of interfering in a range of areas in Hong Kong, from politics to media and education.

Pro-China protesters targeted a small march by activists in memory of the victims of Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown Saturday morning as officials gathered for the swearing in.

As the pro-democracy campaigners prepared to carry a makeshift coffin towards the convention centre, as they do each year, a man ran across the street and kicked it.

Flag-waving pro-China protesters then blocked the march as police struggled to separate the two sides.

Democracy campaigners were taken away in police vans and released soon after.

Lam's swearing in by Xi is deeply symbolic for frustrated activists who have been pushing for fully free leadership elections for the city, with mass pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" rallies bringing parts of the city to a standstill in 2014.

Those protests were sparked by a Beijing-backed political reform package which said Hong Kong could have a public vote for leader, but that candidates must be vetted first.

The proposal was voted down in parliament by pro-democracy lawmakers and the reform process has now stalled.

Lam has made no commitment to revisit it soon.

The failure of the democracy movement to win concessions has led some young campaigners to call for self-determination or even independence for the mainland, which has infuriated Beijing.

Carrie Lam's swearing-in as Hong Kong's new leader on Saturday marks the culmination of the lifelong civil servant's career as she inherits a divided city fearful of China's encroaching influence.

Lam, 59, was widely seen as Beijing's preferred candidate when she was elected in March by a mainly pro-China committee representing special interest groups, from real estate and agriculture to teaching and medicine, as well as lawmakers.

But critics have said she will only further polarise a society riven by mass protests three years ago against Beijing's interference in the affairs of the semi-autonomous city and still divided between those loyal to China and those concerned about its growing influence.

Before landing the top job, Lam served as deputy to her highly unpopular predecessor Leung Chun-ying, slammed as a puppet of Beijing.

Appointed by Leung as chief secretary in 2012, the new leader promoted a Beijing-backed political reform package rejected as "fake democracy" by opponents.

Bespectacled Lam -- whose Cantonese name is Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor -- is nicknamed "lai-ma" or "wet-nurse" by opponents in a jibe over what they say was fawning loyalty towards her former boss.

A mother of two adult sons, Lam is known as a tough and effective enforcer.

In 2007, she personally faced off with protesters over the demolition of a historic pier built during Hong Kong's colonial days under British rule. The landmark was ultimately destroyed.

At the height of the mass street protests in 2014 -- known as the "Umbrella Movement" -- she met with student representatives in a televised meeting about the political reform dispute.

Ultimately activists failed to win concessions on democratic reform, including fully free leadership elections.

Lam was an activist herself during university in the 1970s, with one photo published in the South China Morning Post showing her marching in protest against the expulsion of four "leftist" students.

She came from humble origins, growing up in a modest family of five children in the crowded district of Wanchai.

But recent gaffes have fanned criticism that Lam -- who is usually elegantly dressed and sports a short coiffed hairstyle -- is out of touch with ordinary people.

She appeared unfamiliar with how to use the city's ubiquitous "Octopus" travel card to get into the subway platform.

She was also mocked for a lack of common sense after an anecdote related to reporters -- about a late-night hunt for toilet paper -- revealed she didn't know where to buy essentials in a city packed with convenience stores.

In an interview last month with Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Lam said the government must imbue the young generation with a sense of Chinese national identity.

The government will "strictly enforce the law" against any acts advocating Hong Kong independence, she told Xinhua.

China bans use of torture, forced confessions -- again
Beijing (AFP) June 27, 2017
Chinese police and prosecutors are banned from using torture to obtain evidence under rules released Tuesday, in the latest attempt to curb forced confessions in the country's criminal justice system. Confessions obtained through torture, threats and illegal detention are inadmissable in court, the Supreme Court said on its website. The aim is to "accurately punish the crime" and thereb ... read more

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