Hong Kong leader announces withdrawal of extradition bill

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Friday, September 6, 2019

On Wednesday, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, announced that her government will officially withdraw a proposed bill that would have allowed China to extradite accused criminals from Hong Kong to be tried under the mainland's criminal justice system. This was one of the five demands of the protesters, sometimes numbering in the millions, who have filled downtown streets since early this June.

Carrie Lam in 2017.
Image: Iris Tong.

"The government will fully withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," Lam said in a televised announcement. Lam also agreed to add two members to Hong Kong's existing police oversight council but did not accede to protesters' demands for a new judge-led investigation independent of the government.

"Our citizens, police and reporters have been injured during violent incidents," Lam continued in the statement. "There have been chaotic scenes at the airport and [mass transit railway] stations; roads and tunnels have been suddenly blocked. Visitors wonder whether our city is still a safe place for travel or business. Families and friends have been under stress, and arguments have flared. For many people, Hong Kong has become an unfamiliar place."

There has been skepticism among academics and the protesters themselves about the sincerity and effects of the bill's withdrawal:

"Whenever there are signs of sending a palm branch," wrote student protester Joshua Wong on Twitter. "They always come with a far tighter grip on exercising civil rights[.] They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way."

"She's just doing this to try and disintegrate the movement. A lot of people think that," said a protester using the pseudonym Katya. "The situation has escalated to a point where not even Beijing knows how to sort this. So they're using different tricks and lies. Hong Kong people have learned to ignore her."

"This announcement cannot change the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have chosen to suppress protests in a grossly unlawful way that has seriously damaged the people's trust and sense of legitimacy of the government," Hong Kong director of Amnesty International Man-kei Tam said in a statement.

More than 1000 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, according to The Guardian.