China is planning to replace embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam by March 2020 with an interim chief executive who will serve out the rest of her term ending 2022, the Financial Times reported, citing people briefed on the deliberations.
Hong Kong is now in its fifth month of sometimes violent unrest, triggered by protests against a controversial extradition bill that Lam has since withdrawn. Protesters have expanded their demands, saying they will not stop until democratic elections are set to replace the current system of selecting Hong Kong's chief executive and legislators.
Chinese officials are waiting for the situation in Hong Kong to stabilize before making any final decision on whether to replace Lam, according to the report. Such a plan would also need President Xi Jinping's approval.
Lam was reported earlier in September to have told Hong Kong business people that she would quit if given the choice for causing "havoc" in the territory. She later said she has "never tendered a resignation" with the Chinese government, adding: "The choice of not resigning is my own choice."
Norman Chan, who retired earlier this year as head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang, who previously served as the city's financial secretary, are among the leading candidates to replace Lam, the sources told the FT.
Two other potential contenders, current Financial Secretary Paul Chan and Executive Council convener Bernard Chan, were perceived to be too close to the Lam administration to be credible replacements, the sources said.
The Hong Kong government recently announced measures to bolster its economy, which has suffered amid the protests.