Activists are considering staging more protests against the extradition bill and pressuring Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to step down even after she offered a public apology to the people of Hong Kong.
But pro-establishment lawmakers and a business group said it is time to move on and leave behind the issue that has caused divisions in society.
Lam told a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that she has heard the people “loud and clear” and “reflected deeply on all that has transpired” after “people have expressed in a peaceful and rational manner their concerns about the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and their dissatisfaction and disappointment with the government – especially me.”
“The concerns over the past few months have been caused by deficiencies in the work of the SAR government over the amendment exercise. I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society. For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” Lam said.
However, the chief executive refused to step down and did not officially announce the bill would be withdrawn as demanded by people who participated in two massive demonstrations on June 9 and 16.
Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which organized the demonstrations against the extradition bill, said the chief executive just talked about her personal feelings, which Hongkongers did not care to hear, and only wanted to make herself look like the aggrieved party in the whole saga, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Sham said Lam failed to respond to the protesters’ five demands – the chief executive must step down, the government must promise not to prosecute the protesters, it must take back its categorization of the clashes in Admiralty on June 12 as a “riot”, Lam must hold the police to account for their responses to the clashes, and she must completely withdraw the bill.
What Lam said at the press conference not only angered the pan-democratic camp but also embarrassed the pro-establishment camp, Sham said.
The CHRF was set to meet with pan-democratic lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss what their next move should be.
Sham said the CHRF will continue to organize peaceful assemblies and hope to see as many participants as possible, adding that several other civic groups plan to stage their own protests.
Meanwhile, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest political party in the legislature, said pro-establishment lawmakers accepted Lam’s public apology.
Rejecting calls for the chief executive to step down, Lee said there will be a power vacuum if Lam leaves her post.
She also said the DAB will continue to find ways to help the government address the issues regarding the murder case in which a Hong Kong man killed his girlfriend in Taiwan and fled back to the city. Lam had said that the case was one of the main reasons for her decision to push the extradition legislation.
In a statement, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said it respects Lam’s “sincere apology to the people of Hong Kong” over the government’s handling of the extradition bill.
Aron Harilela, chairman of the business group, said he hopes “this will draw a line under this unfortunate episode, and that life in Hong Kong returns to normal as soon as possible”.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, Lam’s predecessor, wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning that Hong Kong’s international reputation has been severely hurt because of the extradition bill saga and urged business chambers in the city to form delegations to conduct overseas visits and explain the extradition issue.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan of the Democratic Party said the fact that no political appointee official has stepped down so far to assume responsibility for the entire saga shows that the current political framework is problematic and as such, political reform should be relaunched so that the views of the public can be properly brought to the government.
Police said they are dropping all investigations regarding eight people earlier arrested for their alleged participation in violent clashes between protesters and police outside Legislative Council complex in Admiralty last Wednesday, RTHK reported.
The eight people were arrested near the protest site on suspicion of loitering.
But after obtaining legal advice, police said they have decided that they do not have sufficient evidence to charge the eight for the offense, the public broadcaster said.
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