Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the extradition bill that sparked the territory’s biggest political crisis in decades is dead, admitting the government’s work on the bill has been a “total failure”. The bill, which would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial, sparked huge and at times violent street protests and plunged the former British colony into turmoil.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says extradition bill is dead after mass protests
Ms Lam said she does not support the bill and was concerned her government may go ahead and forge the law without her.
“I have almost immediately put a stop to the amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity or worries [about] whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council,” she said.
“So I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead.”
The move marks a major victory for people power in the city, with many protesters fearing the extradition plan could threaten Hong Kong’s separate legal system.
On July 1, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain, a peaceful march drew hundreds of thousands of people but was overshadowed by an assault on the territory’s legislative building.
A few hundred demonstrators shattered thick glass panels to enter the building and wreaked havoc for three hours, spray-painting slogans on the chamber walls, overturning furniture and damaging electronic voting and fire prevention systems.
Ms Lam said investigations would take place under the Department of Justice “in accordance with the evidence, the law and also the prosecution code”.
‘Has nothing to do with my own pride’
Major protests have brought Hong Kong to a standstill for a month. At its peak more than a million people marched to demand the scrapping of the bill.
In mid-June, Beijing-backed Ms Lam responded by suspending the bill, but that move failed to mollify critics, who continued to demonstrate against the bill and call for Ms Lam’s resignation.
When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, remaining citizens were promised British capitalism and laws. In the intervening years, some argue that Beijing has squandered its promises.
China called the violence an “undisguised challenge” to the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled for 22 years.
In the most recent protest on Sunday, tens of thousands of people chanted “Free Hong Kong” with some carrying British colonial-era flags.
They said they wanted to carry a peaceful message to people on the mainland, where state-run media have not covered the protests widely, but have focused instead on clashes with police and property damage.
“I fully understand that the responses of the government may not have met the wishes of the people, especially the protesters, who have gone on the streets several times to express their views,” Ms Lam said.
“I just want to reiterate … this is nothing to do with my own pride or arrogance,” she said.
“This is the government’s full deliberation of the various concerns and factors.
“So my sincere plea is, please give us the opportunity, the time, the room, for us to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and try to improve the current situation.”
Hong Kong was returned to China from Britain in 1997.
However, it was under the condition that Hong Kong would retain some of its democratic institutions, including its judicial system and independence, for 50 years after the handover, set to expire in 2047.