Hong Kong CNN  — 

A week ago, it seemed like Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam might have been on the verge of being ousted.

While her government denied rumors that Beijing was drawing up plans to replace her, few would have denied Chinese President Xi Jinping had cause: Lam has repeatedly admitted responsibility for the months-long political crisis rocking the semi-autonomous Chinese city, even reportedly offering to resign in the early days of the demonstrations, as large numbers of people took to the streets to protest an extradition bill she sponsored.

But on Monday, Xi sent a resounding message: Lam is here to stay.

Xi “voiced the central government’s high degree of trust in Lam and full acknowledgment of the work of her and her governance team,” according to state-run news agency Xinhua, which also published a photo of the pair shaking hands and smiling.

Beijing’s decision to stick by Lam makes sense, replacing her would have opened a can of worms in an already unstable environment. But in a city where many see the hand of China in most government policies and pronouncements – and distrust them for this very reason – Xi’s full-throated endorsement could risk underlining for protesters just how much Lam is Beijing’s instrument.

Stay another day

It’s hard to imagine another political system where a senior politician could – by their own admission – have created the level of unrest that Carrie Lam has wrought in Hong Kong, and still keep their job.

“This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” Lam said of her disastrous extradition bill, in a recording of a private speech leaked to Reuters in September. “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

She didn’t – or was not allowed to – quit, and speaking in public after the recording leaked, Lam said she would “rather stay on and walk this path together with my team and the people of Hong Kong.”

But rumors that she had attempted to resign or was on the verge of being replaced have dogged her ever since, and it’s not hard to see why.

That no Hong Kong officials have lost their jobs over the crisis contrasts sharply with protests elsewhere in the world. In the past three months, protests in Puerto Rico brought down Governor Ricardo Rosselló in a matter of days; Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri stood down after less than two weeks of unrest, and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera sacked his whole cabinet in response to widespread and occasionally violent demonstrations.