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Hong Kong withdraws extradition bill

September 4, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has caved into pressure from protesters by withdrawing the bill. Speaking in a video statement Lam cited the need to "allay public concerns."

Carrie Lam
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Hanxin

Carrie Lam withdraws extradition bill

Carrie Lam has withdrawn the bill that triggered mass protests, confirming earlier reports from the South China Morning Post, Cable TV and online news portal HK01.

"The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," chief executive Carrie Lam said in a video statement released via her office. 

The bill, which sparked months of violent protests, would have allowed individuals from Hong Kong accused of having committed crimes in mainland China to be extradited and tried there. 

In response to the earlier reports that the bill would be withdrawn, Hong Kong's benchmark stock index, the Hang Seng, rose by nearly 4%.

Too little, too late?

During the public announcement Lam also pledged that the government would support an inquiry by the Hong Kong Independent Police Complaints Council into police brutality, which would be joined by overseas experts and two government appointees. 

However this is short of another key demand from Hong Kong protesters that an independent inquiry, led by a judge, should be launched. Nearly 1000 protesters have been arrested during the protests and many injured.

Lam also added that she would like to set up public dialogue, liaising with community leaders and academics.

"What happened in the last two months has shocked and saddened the Hong Kong people and made everyone upset about Hong Kong," she said.

However, for Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, the measure to withdraw the bill was "too little, too late." He called the move a "tactic" and urged the world not to be deceived by the Hong Kong and the Beijing governments, adding, "They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way."

People in Hong Kong took to Twitter, a medium many adopted since the protests in a bid to reach a wider international audience than on Chinese platforms like Weibo, saying they would not stand down until all five demands of the protesters were met. They are still calling for the resignation of Lam as well as full democratic elections.

A Twitter user under the name Cyril Ho posted, "The chief executive withdrew the bill - please don't think that we have won this round! The government only wants to shut our mouths! Don't forget what the police have done to us! Five demands, not one less."

Others on the social medial platform are following the trend, calling for Lam to give in to all "five demands, not one less."

Ongoing protests

Lam had already declared that the bill was "dead" and a "total failure," yet no legal steps had been taken to follow up on her statements.

Protests and increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters in the former British territory are ongoing. The weekend was marred by some of the worst violence since unrest escalated more than three months ago, with protesters burning barricades and throwing petrol bombs, and police retaliating with water cannon, tear gas and batons.

The catalyst for the unrest was a paper by the Hong Kong's Securtiy Bureau, which it submitted to the city's legislature. It proposed amendments to existing extradition laws that would have provided for case-by-case extraditions to mainland China.

Opponents of the bill view this as a breach to the "one country, two systems" principle, which was implemented following the UK returning its former territory to China in 1997.

km, mb/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)