Hong Kong leader declares controversial bill “dead”

10, Jul. 2019

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HONG KONG, Kyodo - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that a controversial bill that has spurred sometimes violent protests in the territory in recent weeks “is dead,” and apologized again for causing public anger by mishandling it.

But Lam stopped short of referencing the bill's “complete withdrawal,” which protesters are demanding even though she has suspended the bill indefinitely, and she reiterated her intention to stay on as the territory's leader.

Her remarks are seen as her latest bid to calm the public following weeks of protests that have drawn millions of people for mass marches and occasionally turned violent as some protesters clashed with police and stormed government buildings.

The legislation, which would allow the transfer of fugitives to the mainland China, has had some people fear that Chinese authorities might use it to crack down on pro-democracy activists and critics of the Communist Party-led Beijing government.

“The bill is dead,” Lam told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, one month since the June 9 mass march against the bill that organizers say drew 1.03 million people out on the streets in central Hong Kong.

“The cause of all these grievances and confrontations is an exercise to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. I have almost immediately put a stop to the amendment exercise.”

“But there are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council. So I reiterate here, there is no such plan,” she said.

Even though the government has made it clear that it will let the bill expire at the end of a legislative session in July next year, protests have continued, calling for the legislation's complete withdrawal.

Some protesters stormed the Legislative Council on July 1 and ransacked its chamber, prompting the government to pledge to pursue those responsible for breaking into the building and committing vandalism there.

Lam on Monday spurned protesters' demand for pardons to protesters who broke the law. “Any demand that we should...not follow up on investigations and prosecutions of offenders is not acceptable.”

On an inquiry protesters are calling for into a June 12 protest during which police are alleged to have used excessive force against protesters, Lam said a police watchdog will finish and release a report on police action in six months.

She accepted her responsibility for introducing the bill to the legislature but dismissed protesters' demand that she resign over it.

“I fully understand that the responses of the government may not have fully meet the wishes of the people, I just want to reiterate that this has nothing to do with my own pride or arrogance.”

“My sincere plea is please give us an opportunity, the time, the room for us to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse, and try to improve the current situation.”

The bill seeks to allow the return of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition deal, such as mainland China and Taiwan.

It has attracted opposition among many Hong Kong residents amid fears it could severely undermine the former British colony's judicial independence and its semiautonomous status.

Foreign governments have also expressed concerns that their citizens could be extradited when traveling in Hong Kong. (Kyodo)