The Chinese government is reportedly planning on replacing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam with an interim chief executive following months of violent protests under her watch.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will likely have Lam replaced in March, according to The Financial Times. The decision would require the approval of China’s parliament, but it is likely they will move the measure forward when they meet for their annual session.
Lam has apparently felt responsibility for the months of protests Hong Kong following backlash over an extradition bill which would have allowed China to extradite individuals charged with crimes in Hong Kong to mainland China for prosecution.
The Hong Kong government formally removed the bill from a list of proposed legislation on Wednesday, Radio Free Asia reported.
Lam reportedly wanted to resign in July, but was forced to stay by Beijing.
“For a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable,” Lam said in a leaked audio recording. “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”
Norman Chan, former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang, son of a textile magnate who served as the territory’s financial secretary and chief secretary for administration, are the leading candidates to succeed Lam, according to FT.
While hundreds of thousands continue to demonstrate in Hong Kong to pressure the government to let its citizens vote for its leaders, the protests have turned violent.
Activists have thrown gasoline bombs at a police station and detonated explosives near police cars, causing the Hong Kong police to warn that the protests have reached “life-threatening” levels.
“Violence against police has reached a life-threatening level,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-Keung said. “They are not protesters, they are rioters and criminals. Whatever cause they are fighting for, it never justifies such violence.”
Conversely, protests have escalated against claims of brutality by the Hong Kong police. Police shot a teenage demonstrator during protests against China’s National Day on Oct. 1.
Hong Kong schoolchildren boycotted class on Oct. 2 in protest of the shooting, which Hong Kong police described as “reasonable and lawful,” claiming the officer had feared for his life, The Daily Beast reported.
President Xi recently threatened that protesters attempting to divide China would be crushed.
“Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder,” Xi reportedly said.
He added, “Any external forces that support the splitting of China can only be regarded as delusional by the Chinese people.