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Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong's Lam doesn't rule out seeking Beijing help to stem unrest

'It is too early to say the anti-mask law is not effective,' chief executive says

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference in the city on Tuesday.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that she has no plan now to seek help from Beijing after an escalation of violent protests triggered by a new ban on wearing masks, but said it could be a future option.

During a three-day holiday weekend, demonstrators set fires around train stations and vandalized businesses with connections to mainland China or those perceived to be against the protests.

In her first public appearance since the mask ban was introduced late last week via the invocation of a colonial-era emergency law, Lam said that she could not rule out any option if the situation deteriorated.

"At this point in time, I strongly feel we should find solutions ourselves. This is also the position of the central government," Lam said before a meeting with cabinet members.

"But if the situation becomes so bad then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance," she said. This includes calling for Beijing for help, she said without further elaboration. "I can't tell you now under what circumstances we will do extra things," Lam said in response to a reporter's question.

Over the holiday weekend, clashes between protesters and police continued across the city, with tens of thousands of demonstrators taking part in unauthorized marches. Police on Tuesday said 241 people were arrested -- 77 for anti-mask law violations -- in the four days through Monday, and there were 213 cases of facilities being vandalized, including stores and MTR stations.

The city's metro and rail systems, used by millions of residents every day, were largely shut down over the weekend or had services severely curtailed. Stations and rail service gradually reopened on Tuesday as morning commuters returned to work and students resumed classes.

"It is too early to say the anti-mask law is not effective," Lam said Tuesday. "For any new legislation, it will take time for it to be effectively implemented."

Lam added that her administration will continue to use existing legal, political and policy means to solve the social unrest, including continuing public dialogue tackling deep-rooted issues such as housing shortage.

Contributing writer Eduardo Baptista contributed to this article.

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