Carrie Lam announces withdrawal of extradition bill

September 04, 2019 19:18
Carrie Lam announces withdrawal of the extradition bill in a pre-recorded video address telecast Wednesday evening. Photo: HK Govt video/screenshot

Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of an extradition bill that has pushed the territory into its worst crisis in decades.

Lam said the security secretary will formally pull the contentious bill, which had earlier been suspended, by moving "a motion according to the rules of procedure when the Legislative Council resumes".

The chief executive said there were other measures been taken, including "fully supporting" the work of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) as it carries out a probe into the police's handling of the ongoing protests, RTHK reports.

Two new members -- Helen Yu and Paul Lam -- are being appointed to the watchdog that handles complaints related to the police.

"I pledge that the government will seriously follow up the recommendations in the IPCC's report," Lam said.

In other comments, Lam said she and her principal officials will start holding dialogue with people from all walks of life to "find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions".

Community leaders, professionals and academics will be invited to "independently examine and review society's deep-seated problems and to advise the government on finding solutions", Lam said.

People have other concerns besides the extradition bill, she said, acknowledging that work needs to be done on issues such as improving the housing supply, social mobility and public involvement in government decision-making.

Video recordings of Lam announcing the withdrawal were released in both Cantonese and English shortly after she held a meeting at her official residence attended by top officials, pro-Beijing lawmakers and members of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

While withdrawal of the extradition bill has been a key demand of the protesters, it is doubtful if that move alone will put an end to the unrest that had gripped Hong Kong since June.

The immediate reaction appeared skeptical, going by the chatter in online forums, as Lam has stopped short of an independent inquiry into police conduct.

Many young people in city are furious at perceived police brutality and the number of arrests - 1,183 at the latest count, Reuters noted. 

Apart from an independent inquiry into police conduct, the protesters had demanded amnesty for arrested demonstrators, retraction of the characterization of the protests as riots, and restart of political reforms to ensure genuine universal suffrage.

Ahead of the announcement, Kex Leung, president of the Education University's student union, who has been taking part in the protests, said the campaign will not end until all the demands are met.

"I don't this social movement will end in an instant. I don't think she [Carrie Lam] chose a good timing to announce such a withdrawal because it's come too little too late," Leung said, according to RTHK.

Claudia Mo, convenor of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council, said Lam's gesture has come late and doesn't go far enough.

"She can't think she can just ... withdraw [the bill] and appease the entire society. The whole thing has come too little too late," Mo said.

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