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Hong Kong leader says situation ‘very grim’ amid unrest

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she expects the growth in the Asian financial hub to record negative rate for the full 2019 year, after five months of violent protests blamed on the United States and foreign countries.

“Our current assessment is that the full year of 2019 will likely show negative growth, which means we won’t be able to achieve the already revised down positive growth of 0-1%,” Lam said on Tuesday.

“The situation is very grim,” she stressed.

Hong Kong is currently in its fifth month of protests, which have plunged it into its biggest political crisis in decades and taken a heavy toll on its economy.

Lam noted that the central government in Beijing has confidence in her administration’s ability to return the city to normal and is backing her in upholding law and order.

The protests started in June against a proposed extradition bill. The bill was later withdrawn, but the protests continued and took on an increasingly violent form.

The Chinese government says the United States and Britain have been fanning the flames of unrest by supporting the protesters.

On Sunday, clashes erupted between police forces and thousands of protesters — many wearing banned face masks — who converged on a tourist district and started shouting obscenities at the police.

Earlier this month, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the city has fallen into recession and ruled out the achievement of any growth in 2019.

The government is due to announce a preliminary estimate for third-quarter GDP on Thursday, which is expected to show two successive quarters of contraction — the technical definition of a recession.

Lam further promised new measures to bolster the economy once unrest calms down, without giving more details.

Last week, the government announced relief measures of HK$2 billion to support the economy, following a HK$19.1 billion package in August.