06/19/2019, 12.23
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Card. Tong and Christian leader: Ok for Carrie Lam apology, but withdraw extradition law

by Paul Wang

In a joint statement, the apostolic administrator of the diocese and the president of the (protestant) Christian council, Eric So, demand an independent inquiry into the clashes between police and protesters, where the police would have used tear gas, sticks, bullets rubber against helpless people.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - "We accept the personal, public apology of the Chief Executive”, but we also ask that the Hong Kong government not only say that the law is "suspended", but publicly declares that it "is withdrawn". This is what the two major Christian leaders of the territory demand, Card. John Tong, apostolic administrator of the Catholic diocese, and Eric So Shing-it, president of the (Protestant) Christian Council in Hong Kong.

In a joint statement, published this morning in "response to the Press Conference held yesterday afternoon by Chief Executive Mrs. Carrie Lam on the Extradition Bill", they accept Lam’s "public apology" and "admission of her inadequacies ".

Lam, who wanted to introduce the controversial extradition law at all costs and with "urgency", after the oceanic demonstrations of June 9 (one million people) and June 16 (over 2 million people), had first decided to "suspend" the discussion of the law in parliament, then - after the police violence against groups of young people -  expressed her "profound and personal" apology, saying that she would "improve" communication with the people of Hong Kong and with young people in particular. But demonstrators throughout the territory are demanding her resignation.

Card Tong and Eric So do not ask for Lam’s resignation, but they are asking the government to “launch a thorough independent inquiry into the clashes between the police and the protesters on June 12, as a lesson for the future."

On 12 June last, tens of thousands of people gathered around the parliament in Hong Kong (Legco) asking for the debate on the law to be blocked. That evening, some young people tried to enter the parliament building and the police - in riot gear – beat them back using sticks, tear gas, rubber bullets. The result was 82 wounded, including dozens of policemen.

The police chief and Carrie Lam, justified their actions and termed the whole demonstration a "revolt", which made the violence necessary. But the population, in addition to international organizations and activists, have accused the police of excessive use of violence. Yesterday, Lam admitted that the demonstration was "peaceful" and took responsibility for the police intervention.

The third request of the two Christian leaders is that the government clearly specifies not only that the law in question is "suspended", but is "withdrawn, to meet the strong demand of the public". Yesterday at the apology press conference, Lam did not mention this possibility at all.

The draft law would allow for the extradition of criminal suspects to countries with which Hong Kong has no extradition agreements. These include Taiwan and China. Thus, suspects would be consigned to a judicial system such as the Chinese one, that does not respect basic human rights and is unable to guarantee a fair trial. Furthermore, democrats and activists see the risk that China may demand the extradition of dissidents and democratic people critical of the Beijing regime. Some Catholics have also pointed out that this law would make the work of Christians with unofficial communities (considered illegal) in China risky.

The law is also criticized by the legal and business sectors of the territory, because they see an attempt to undermine the rule of law that exists in Hong Kong, unlike in mainland China.

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