What Carrie Lam should do now

July 11, 2019 19:22
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said the extradition bill is ‘dead’, but her words failed to satisfy many activists. Photo: Reuters

Before going into an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met with the press and utilized the opportunity to assure that the extradition bill is "dead”.

The talk, however, failed to convince many activists, who said they can't trust Lam.

Among the skeptics was Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, the entity that organized the large-scale protest marches in the city over the past month.

Sham said he can't accept Lam's words, because when it comes to the legislative process, there is no such a thing as “a bill is dead”.

A bill can only be withdrawn or postponed in the Legislative Council’s Rules of Procedure.

Given the continuing suspicions in relation to the bill, which has been suspended but not officially withdrawn, we are of the opinion that the government would do well to go the extra mile.

In our view, since “suspending” the bill was tantamount to “withdrawing” it, and given that “dead” basically translates to “withdrawn”, why not keep it simple and officially announce that the planned legislation has been scrapped completely?

Such move will allay the concerns among the public and help put the entire controversy to rest once and for all, creating the atmosphere to rebuild trust between the government and the citizens.

Andrew Li Kwok-nang, former chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal, recently penned a newspaper article wherein he urged the administration to withdraw the bill in order to facilitate reconciliation in society.

He also called on the government to set up a commission of inquiry, led by a judge, into all the recent events.

Li pointed out that a commission of inquiry is a “much more effective mechanism” than the Independent Police Complaints Council for “ascertaining the truth”, in that the former “can summon witnesses” before it while the latter can't.

Besides, Li added, the hearings of the commission of inquiry “are open and the public and media can attend.”

Such inquiry “would be totally impartial and fair”, he said.

As a commission of inquiry would normally take at least nine months to report its findings, it will offer enough time for social tensions to cool in the meantime.

Nevertheless, Li is against the idea of an amnesty for the arrested protesters at this point, because “it would be inconsistent with the rule of law.”

We believe the chief executive ought to take Li’s suggestions very seriously.

Lam has vowed to stay humble and learn her lesson. Now, the lesson is right there in front of her. But is she willing to walk the talk?

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Hong Kong Economic Journal