Lam gives in on Hong Kong bill

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam
Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

An extradition bill that triggered three months of unprecedented pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong will be withdrawn, the city’s leader announced on Wednesday, bowing to one of the protesters’ five key demands.

Millions of people have taken to Hong Kong’s streets since June in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of semi-autonomous Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997.

After refusing for months to withdraw the bill, which aimed to allow extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam finally conceded as she called for calm.

“The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns,” she said.

Initial reports in the media flagging Lam’s announcement raised hopes that giving in to the extradition demand could help end the crisis.

Hong Kong’s stock market climbed nearly 4% after the reports emerged.

But those hopes were quickly tempered, with pro-democracy activists voicing anger and determination to press on with their broader democracy campaign.

“Too little, too late,” Joshua Wong, a prominent activist arrested late last week as part of a police swoop of leading prodemocracy figures, said.

“We urge the world too to be alert to this tactic and not to be deceived by HK and Beijing Govt. They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way.”

The protests began as opposition to efforts to introduce the legislation, which was seen as another erosion of the liberties enjoyed in Hong Kong compared with in mainland China.