China’s foreign ministry has strongly denied a report from the London-based Financial Times which claimed Beijing was considering replacing Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was a “political rumour with ulterior motives behind it” on Wednesday. Hua stressed that the central government would continue to firmly support Lam and the Hong Kong government's efforts to stops the violence and restore order as soon as possible. At time of publication, the Hong Kong government had not issued any official response to the report. The Financial Times quoted unnamed sources familiar with the Chinese government’s deliberations who said Beijing was planning to replace Lam with an “interim” leader by March 2020. According to the report, leading candidates for the position included former financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-nien and Norman Chan Tak-lam, the previous head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Lam has become a deeply unpopular figure within the Hong Kong government establishment. Her proposal of the now-dead China extradition bill, as well as her government’s uncompromising stance, sparked and sustained five months of often violent protests which have rocked the city. According to a poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute in October, Lam’s approval rating slid to 22.3 points – the lowest ever during her tenure. Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday formally withdrew the planned legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and was the initial focus of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Beijing has repeatedly affirmed its support for Lam's leadership throughout the protest movement. “We firmly support Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam in leading the SAR (special administrative region) government,” Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said in September, shortly after an audio recording of Lam confessing that she wanted to quit was leaked.