Why Lam should hold off on the extradition bill

June 14, 2019 18:42
A police officer fires tear gas in Hong Kong on June 12 during a protest by citizens against an extradition bill. The government is digging in its heels on the controversial legislation, throwing up the prospect of further clashes. Photo: Reuters

As Hong Kong is engulfed in a firestorm of controversy over the government’s proposed extradition law changes, religious leaders in the city made a rare intervention into political affairs. The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong issued a joint statement on Tuesday calling for restraint on the matter.

In their statement, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic and Confucian leaders urged the government to respect the citizens’ freedom of peaceful demonstration and assembly, as well as their right of expressing their views.

They also hoped that both the administration and the public can exercise restraint and work things out peacefully.

Meanwhile, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, has called upon the government to postpone the legislative push.

In the meantime, seven former politically appointed officials have drawn up a joint petition urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to withdraw the bill promptly in order to create space for society to exchange views on the matter and discuss the issue rationally.

From Lam's perspective, she is doing the right thing in amending the existing extradition laws in order to plug the legal loopholes, and she did make some concessions already.

However, the point is, a whole lot of citizens are against the proposed law change.

And even if they were all misled over the rationale behind the legislative initiative as some high-ranking officials have claimed, their dissenting voices cannot be ignored.

That being said, shouldn’t a people-oriented government call a suspension of the proposed law change in order to avoid further bloody clashes?

We are not suggesting that the government abandon its plans altogether, merely that it should at least drop the legislative push for now.

By doing so, we believe it will allow both the government and members of the public to calm down and find common ground through further dialogue, while helping bring down the noises coming in from external forces.

We totally agree that we must condemn violence, and that those who have seriously broken the law must be brought to justice.

That said, given that even Lam herself has admitted that hundreds of thousands of people had taken to the streets on June 9 because of their great love for Hong Kong, why can’t the chief executive ensure that we can avoid further conflict and violence by dropping the bill for the time being?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal