PETALING JAYA, Selangor: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (Oct 4) Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam should step down following months of protests against her government.
Growing opposition to the Hong Kong government has plunged the financial hub into its biggest political crisis in decades and poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
Speaking at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Mahathir, referring to Beijing, said the chief executive “has to obey the masters and at the same time she has to ask her conscience”.
“Her conscience says that the people of Hong Kong are right in rejecting the law but, on the other hand, she knows the consequences of rejecting the law,” he said. “But for the administrator, I think, the best thing to do is resign.”
Mahathir also said he expected China to take action against the protesters, drawing a parallel to student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“Yes, they allowed you to demonstrate and all that but eventually in a system that is authoritarian they will come back and do what they have to do,” he said.
The protests in Hong Kong began over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, and have intensified markedly since June. They have also evolved into wider calls for democracy, among other demands.
On Friday, thousands of masked protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong again as the government readied to use emergency powers to ban face coverings in a bid to end the demonstrations.
Dr Mahathir, 94, is one of Asia’s most experienced leaders. He was prime minister for 22 years from 1981, only to come out of retirement last year to head a government after an opposition election victory.