Hong Kong leader signals end to
extradition bill but refuses to quit
Send a link to a friend
[June 18, 2019]
By Clare Jim and Noah Sin
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong leader
Carrie Lam on Tuesday signaled the end of a controversial extradition
bill that she promoted and then postponed after some of the most violent
protests since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in
In a closely watched press conference, Lam apologized for the turmoil
but refused to say the bill would be "withdrawn", only that it wouldn't
be re-introduced during her time in office if public fears persist.
This was the strongest indicator yet that the government was effectively
shelving legislation that would allow people to be extradited to
mainland China to face trial, even if it fell short of protester demands
for the government to scrap the bill altogether.
"Because this bill over the past few months has caused so much anxiety,
and worries and differences in opinion, I will not, this is an
undertaking, I will not proceed again with this legislative exercise if
these fears and anxieties cannot be adequately addressed," Lam told
Lam, appearing both contrite and defiant, used much of the same language
as a previous press conference on Saturday when she announced a
postponement of the bill. A day later, about two million people spilled
on to the streets, many demanding that she step down.
Lam, asked repeatedly whether she would quit, refused to do so, saying
there remained important work ahead in the next three years, which would
bring her to the end of her current five-year term of office.
"After this incident, I think work in the next three years will be very
difficult ... but myself and my team will work harder to rebuild public
Lam apologized for plunging the city into major upheaval, saying she had
heard the people "loud and clear" and would try to rebuild trust.
But some protest organizers and opposition Democrats said Lam remained
tone-deaf to public demands, namely that she state categorically a
retraction of the bill, step down immediately and pledge not to
prosecute any protesters on rioting charges.
"Carrie Lam is continuing to lie," said Jimmy Sham, the convener of the
Civil Human Rights Front. "We hope the people of Hong Kong can unite
with us ... to keep working hard to withdraw the evil law," he told
[to top of second column]
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference in
Hong Kong, China, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Alvin Yeung, a democratic lawmaker, said Lam had failed again to
lower the political temperature in the city of seven million.
"Hong Kong will not accept this," he said.
Lam's climb-down, with the approval of China's Communist Party
leaders, was the biggest policy reversal since 1997 and presented a
new challenge for Chinese President Xi Jinping who has ruled with an
iron fist since taking power in 2012.
Since the proposed amendments to the Fugitives Offenders' Ordinance
were first put to the legislature in February, Lam has repeatedly
rebuffed concerns voiced in many quarters, including business
groups, lawyers, judges, and foreign governments against the bill.
Critics say the bill would undermine Hong Kong's independent
judiciary and rule of law, guaranteed by the "one country, two
systems" formula under which Hong Kong returned to China, by
extending China's reach into the city and allowing individuals to be
arbitrarily sent back to China where they couldn't be guaranteed a
Chinese courts are ultimately controlled by the Communist Party.
Lam issued an apology on Sunday night through a written government
statement that many people said lacked sincerity. It failed to
pacify many marchers who said they no longer trusted her and doubted
her ability to govern.
Lam, a career civil-servant known as "the fighter" for her
straight-shooting and tough leadership style, took office two years
ago pledging to heal a divided society. Some observers say she is
unlikely to step down immediately but any longer-term political
ambitions she may have harbored are now all but dead.
(Reporting by Clare Jim, Noah Sin, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree
and Hong Kong newsroom; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick
[© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2019 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.