9th July, 2019
Under fire Hong Kong administrator, Carrie Lam today announced that a widely loathed China extradition law that has sparked unprecedented political unrest “is dead”.
She, however, stopped short of demands to immediately withdraw the bill.
In her most conciliatory remarks since huge protests erupted a month ago, Carrie Lam admitted her administration’s attempt to introduce the law was a “complete failure”.
But it was unclear whether her words would defang protests which have rocked the semi-autonomous city, with analysts saying trust in the government has been severely eroded.
The international finance hub has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history following a month of marches and sporadic violent confrontations with police involving a minority of hardcore protesters.
The rallies were sparked by a now-suspended law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. But they morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.
The crisis — which has seen police fire tear gas and rubber bullets and the city’s parliament trashed by protesters — is the most serious challenge to Beijing’s authority since the city was handed back to China in 1997.
With calls mounting for her resignation, Lam has made few public appearances in recent weeks. But on Tuesday she resurfaced to repeat her stance that there was no plan to bring back the extradition bill.
“There is no such plan. The bill is dead,” Lam said.
Yet she declined to use the word “withdraw” — a demand chanted by the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have massed across the city.
They are demanding the flashpoint law is scrapped from the legislative agenda, rather than wait for it to expire in July 2020 when the next parliamentary session ends.
Lam agreed to meet student protesters without preconditions, adding she recognised the swirling economic, political and social challenges facing the city.
“I come to the conclusion that there are some fundamental and deep-seated problems in Hong Kong society,” she said.
Lam has been under pressure to appoint an independent judge to head up a public commission of inquiry into the police response to the protests.
But Lam rejected those calls again on Monday, backing an existing police complaints body to investigate claims of excessive force.
Analyst Dixon Sing said it was unlikely protesters would be satisfied by Lam’s latest statement.
“Trust in the government has sunk to such a record level that if there’s not a clear fulfilment of the (key) demands, the majority of the Hong Kong public will still be very sceptical of the government’s sincerity,” he told AFP.