HONG Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has apologised to its people as two million people took to the streets to call for the ditching of plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
The demonstrators demanded she resign despite her earlier announcement that the controversial extradition bill was to be suspended after earlier mass protests.
Opponents worry the law could be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.
In a statement issued late on Sunday, and the embattled Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong.”
“The chief executive apologises to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.
Despite previously refusing to scrap the bill, Lam today finally gave in to protesters.
She said: “I feel deep sorrow and regret that deficiencies in our work – and various other factors – have stirred up substantial controversies.”
NO INTENTION TO SET DEADLINE
Critics said Lam should withdraw the plan for good, resign and also apologise for police use of potentially lethal force during clashes with protesters on Wednesday.
Lam said the proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
After announcing her decision, Lam avoided answering questions over whether she should quit.
She insisted she was not withdrawing the proposed amendment and defended the police.
Lam said she was suspending the bill indefinitely. It was time, she said, “for responsible government to restore as quickly as possible this calmness in society.”
She added: “I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind. We have no intention to set a deadline for this work.”
What are the protests against?
Hong Kong’s government is trying to push through a bill that would allow extraditions to any jurisdiction that does not have already have a treaty – including mainland China.
They claim the measure will prevent Hong Kong, a colony of 7million people, from becoming a magnet for fugitives.
Leader Carrie Lam says the safeguards protect free speech and meet the international standards for human rights.
The legislation has met with widespread opposition from a huge cross-section of society including lawyers, journalists, activists and business figures.
Black-clad demonstrators have brought the heart of the city to a standstill by flooding into major arteries of the city.
A procession of people almost two miles long marched for seven hours through central Hong Kong on Sunday, June 9.
A group of protesters had planned to stay outside the government headquarters until the extradition bill undergoes its second reading on Tuesday, but police moved in after a permit to protest expired at midnight and met the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Even though China has run Hong Kong since 1997, the handover deal with the Brits ensured a 50-year “one country, two systems” deal where the city can retain key liberties, such as freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.
‘GIVE US ANOTHER CHANCE’
Lam said she had heard the calls for her government to “pause and think”.
She said her goal was “the greatest interests of Hong Kong”, which involved first restoring peace and order.
Lam apologised failures in her government’s work to win public support for the bill, however she insisted the bill is still needed.
She told the public to “give us another chance”.
The Hong Kong leader acknowledged that the government needed to tackle other issues, especially a dire lack of affordable housing. She also cited the economy as a concern.
Lam’s decision comes after a whopping one million protesters took to the streets to protest a law that would allow extradition to mainland China.
Authorities in the territory have sought to suppress opposition to the proposed law, which critics say would erode Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
HONG KONG'S HISTORY
Hong Kong became a British colony with the end of the First Opium War in 1842.
The British fought the war to preserve the right of the East India Company to sell opium into mainland China.
The establishment of the colony gave Britain control over a number of ports to which foreign merchants could deliver goods.
Britain obtained a 99-year lease for the territory in 1898, and relinquished control when that lease expired in 1997.
Hong Kong now operates as a semi-autonomous territory, with control over its own trade, tax, and immigration policy.
Under the terms of the 1997 handover, that status is protected until 2047.
What happens after then is currently undecided, but opponents of the Beijing government fear that China will seek to gain control of the territory.
MOST READ IN NEWS
Hong Kong has been a semi-autonomous region since 1997, when a 99-year lease held by Britain expired.
Violence broke out after police equipped with riot gear, batons, and pepper spray, moved on peaceful protesters outside the parliament and government headquarters.
A procession of people almost two miles long marched for seven hours through central Hong Kong on Sunday.
Despite previously refusing to scrap the bill, Lam today finally gave in to protesters[/caption]
Violence broke out after police equipped with riot gear, batons, and pepper spray, moved on peaceful protesters outside the parliament and government headquarters[/caption]
Black-clad demonstrators have brought the heart of the city to a standstill by flooding into major arteries of the city[/caption]
A procession of people almost two miles long marched for seven hours through central Hong Kong on Sunday[/caption]
Police reacted violently when demonstrators outside government headquarters outstayed a protest permit[/caption]
A protester has her eyes washed out after being pepper sprayed by police[/caption]
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