Embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has formally withdrew a controversial extradition bill which ignited violent mass protests across the semi-autonomous city in the last three months.
“We must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions. After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that this discontentment extends far beyond the bill,” Lam said while making a video statement.
The decision marked a dramatic U-turn for Lam, who succumbed to pressure from the protesters’ five main demands, one of which called for the full withdrawal of the bill which would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.
However, Lam did not cave in as far as the other four demands of the demonstrators went, including more democratic rights for the city and independent commission into alleged police brutality, asserting that all inquiries would be done by the existing Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).
Lam also announced the addition of a former education bureau chief and former judge to the IPCC. Underlining that her government’s priority was to restore law and order in Hong Kong, the pro-Beijing leader said, “Let’s replace conflicts with conversations and let’s look for solutions.”
Earlier in June, Lam had suspended the bill and said that it was ‘dead’, but the protesters have long been suspicious of her government’s refusal to formally withdraw the proposed legislation and feared it could be revived later.
On Tuesday, the Hong Kong leader said she had not tendered resignation to Beijing, nor even “contemplated to discuss a resignation” with her mainland superiors. Her remarks came after a purported audio recording emerged of her saying she would quit if she had “a choice”.
Last week witnessed some of the fiercest standoffs between protesters and police as security forces carried out mass arrests on the eve of a banned march, and demonstrators lobbed petrol bombs at police headquarters, stations and government buildings in the city.