Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been holding meetings with people from different walks of life. Everyone agrees those meetings are useless while Hong Kong burns. But they do seem to serve as cathartic confessions for this Catholic woman. In an earlier meeting with young people, she was secretly taped as saying she couldn’t authorise an official inquiry into police misconduct because of objections from the force. In another meeting with business representatives, she reportedly said she would, if she could, apologise to the people of Hong Kong. In an audio taping provided by Reuters, she appeared to confirm rumours that she had tried to quit but Beijing wouldn’t let her. In response, however, she has denied the report and insisted that staying on was her own decision. Police unions have, all along, rejected any official inquiry. They know they have the upper hand because when it comes to dealing with the current unrest, they are the only instrument of the government that remains effective. If the audio provided by Reuters is anything to go by, Lam is admitting she is now a figurehead. The crisis has been elevated, she said, “to a national level … to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies. “The political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for manoeuvring is very, very, very limited.” Beijing is pursuing a hard line which she doesn’t have the stomach for. It knows she can’t clean up her mess, but she won’t be let off so easily. If true, this is an extraordinary admission. Then follows the mea maxima culpa. She seems to acknowledge the “unforgivable havoc” she has caused. “If I have a choice,” she was heard saying, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.” In an ordinary city, Lam would have made a decent mayor. But Hong Kong is no ordinary city and these are not ordinary times. Hong Kong leader responds to leak: ‘I never offered to resign’ Beijing is pursuing a hard line which she doesn’t have the stomach for. It knows she can’t clean up her mess, but she won’t be let off so easily. So those meetings seem like a convenient way for her to tell the public: if it were up to me, I would have conceded to all your demands. Since those meetings were off the record, she could always deny saying anything, for the benefit of her mainland bosses.