Monday, February 17

Hong Kong leader shelves loathed extradition bill


Carrie Lam

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam yesterday announced the withdrawal of an extradition bill that triggered months of unrest and threw the Chinese-ruled city into its worst crisis in decades, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The announcement, in an internal meeting with pro- establishment lawmakers and Hong Kong delegates of China’s National People’s Congress, came just two days after Reuters revealed that Lam told business leaders last week she had caused “unforgivable havoc” by introducing the bill. If she had a choice she would apologise and resign, according to a leaked audio recording..

The protests against the bill in the former British colony began in March but snowballed in June and have since evolved into a push for greater democracy.

The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China where courts are controlled by the Communist Party,

It was not immediately clear if the bill’s withdrawal would help end the unrest. The immediate reaction appeared sceptical and the real test will be how many people take to the streets.

Many are furious at perceived police brutality and want an independent inquiry.

“This won’t appease the protesters,” said Boris Chen, 37 who works in financial services. “In any kind of time, people will find something they can get angry about.”

Pearl, 69, said the protests were no longer about the bill.

“Some of those guys may change their minds, maybe, but just a minority,” she said of the protesters. “Some of them just want to create trouble and they will continue to do so.”

“Too little, too late,” said Joshua Wong, a leader of the 2014 pro-democracy protests which were the precursor to the current unrest, on his Facebook page.

The chief executive’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill’s withdrawal. Nor did China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index jumped after the report of the bill’s imminent withdrawal, trading up about 4 per cent. — AFP