After three months of protests, Carrie Lam formally withdraws extradition bill

The announcement was made this afternoon at a televised press conference. The other four demands of the anti-extradition movement remained unmet. Groups dismiss Carrie Lam's speech as a "play of words", want all their demands to be met, and appeal to the international community.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – After almost three months of protests and violent clashes between police and protesters, Carrie Lam finally withdrew a controversial extradition bill.

At a televised press conference, Hong Kong’s chief executive announced this afternoon that "the Government will formally withdraw the Bill in order to fully allay public concerns."

Lam expected the extradition bill to be in place by the end of July. The proposed legislation would have allowed mainland China to prosecute criminal suspects extradited from Hong Kong.

In June however, almost all civil society groups came out against the bill: lawyers, pro-democracy activists, civil servants, merchants, and especially students from middle and high schools as well as universities.

An endless series of usually peaceful protests and sit-ins brought millions of people into the streets, where they were subjected to police repression, leading to charges against the latter of excessive use of force – tear gas, beatings, bullets fired against the crowd, water cannons, charges – as well as collusion with organised crime (triads) who beat up protesters and ordinary citizens.

In July, Carrie Lam declared that she would suspend the bill, but the protest movement demanded its complete withdrawal. At the same time, it issued a number of other demands; the latter include not describing violent clashes between protesters and policemen as "riots", dropping charges against detained protesters and having them released unconditionally, opening a full and independent inquiry into police action and triad terror, and implementing universal suffrage.

Lam has met the first demand, not the others. In particular, instead of an inquiry by an independent commission on police violence, she reiterated that the government already has an Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) that will carry out the probe. The issue of full democracy in the territory was instead postponed to future dialogue.

Acknowledging that the protests are a sign of a discontent that "extends far beyond the [Extradition] Bill”, Lam said that her government would begin meetings with different social groups who will be able “to share their views and air their grievances.".

Various groups associated with the protests have already reacted to Lam’s speech, dismissing it as "a play of words" to "buy time in order to crush the [anti-extradition] movement." For this reason, they want all five demands implemented.

One group, the Guardians of Hong Kong, ends its criticism of Lam's proposal, asking for support and help from the international community "against tyranny to preserve freedom and justice". (P.W.)

Photo credit: HKFP