Hong Kong suspends plans for extradition law. Opponents will continue to demonstrate
Chief Executive Carrie Lam admits communication "inadequacies", wants to restore "peace and order", and will listen to everyone, the opposition included. Still, the Civil Human Rights Front will continue to demonstrate. Trade unions plan strike with business backing. The mainland has been silent so far.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced this morning that her government was suspending plans to pass a proposed extradition law. This apparent bow to Hong Kong public opinion follows days of protests by residents, culminating in a rally of a million people last Sunday.
Ms. Lam had previously refused to scrap the bill despite mass protests, pressures from Hong Kong groups (lawyers, business, trade unions, media, etc.), and clashes between the police and large numbers of protesters.
Speaking at a press conference Lam admitted to "inadequacies" in communicating her message as well as “doubts and misunderstanding”. She also acknowledged that "The bill has caused a lot of division in society”.
She reiterated that the original intent of the bill was to give Hong Kong authorities the power to extradite a suspect wanted in connection with a murder case in Taiwan and to ensure that Hong Kong did not become a refuge for other criminals.
However, most people in Hong Kong fear that the law would be use to extradite people who are suspects in Beijing’s eyes, namely dissidents and critics of the mainland, handing them over to a legal system, that of the People’s Republic, that does not guarantee minimum human rights or a fair trial.
Lam promised to heed all the voices, even those of the law’s opponents, to restore "peace and order" in the territory, shocked by days of demonstrations and violence by police, which used tear gas and rubber bullets against many young people, wounding at least 80 people.
In recent days, including yesterday, even some of Lam’s closest advisors were pushing for a suspension.
Likewise, foreign envoys and business chambers, fearful of seeing Hong Kong’s fair legal system absorbed by China’s unfair legal system, continued to raise concerns about the proposed bill.
Before Lam's media briefing, the Civil Human Rights Front said that protest action would continue as planned, including tomorrow’s rally.
Trade unions have also said that they want to strike next Monday, backed by many businesses.
So far, Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has been silent with regards to the massive display of public opposition to the bill.
According to some reports, Lam met Vice Premier Han Zheng in Shenzhen yesterday. The latter is Beijing’s point man on Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, mainland media have been parsimonious with news about events in Hong Kong and the role of young people. One exception was the Global Times, which blamed "foreign forces" seeking to spread "chaos" in order to attack China.