Hong Kong had decided to suspend China’s controversial extradition bill. The Chief Executive is apparently making a bid to quell any further unrest and mass demonstrations throughout the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said passage of the bill would be suspended and a second reading due to take place this month would be canceled. Lam also said that no timeline for discussions around the bill to resume is set, and she indicated that it will not likely pass this year.
“We have made many attempts to narrow differences and eliminate doubts,” Lam said. “In the last week, tens of thousands of people took part in protests and gatherings. Serious conflicts broke out … resulting in a number of police officers, media workers and other members of the public being injured. I am saddened by this.”
She also noted that in suspending the bill she hoped the government could “restore calmness” to society. Failure to do so would “deal another blow to the society,” Lam said.
This controversial announcement follows violent clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of mostly young people surrounded the city’s government headquarters, forcing legislators to postpone a debate on the bill.
On June 9, more than one million people took to the streets in a peaceful march against the legislation, about one in seven of the city’s population.
Speaking after Lam’s news conference, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said protests would continue until she steps down.
“If she refuses to withdraw, to scrap this controversial bill altogether, it would mean that we wouldn’t retreat. She stays on. We stay on,” Mo said. “Carrie Lam has lost all credibility amongst the Hong Kong people. She must step down.”
Addressing the media, Lam blamed herself for failure to communicate effectively to the public. She said the original driving force of the bill was a murder case in Taiwan, in which the alleged perpetrator, a Hong Kong man, fled to the city. That case, Lam said, highlighted “loopholes” in the current law with regards to Greater China.
Throughout the controversy Lam has maintained that the bill is necessary to ensure that Hong Kong does not become a sanctuary for fugitives running from justice in mainland China.