Leaders of a massive protest movement in Hong Kong on Tuesday rejected Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s apology for proposing a contentious extradition bill that triggered sometimes violent clashes between young citizens and police.
Foes of the bill that has stoked fears of China’s expanding control over the former British colony pressed their demand that Lam permanently withdraw the legislation, drop all charges against arrested protesters and resign her post.
“Not only is this apology not sincere, it is fake,” said student leader Joshua Wong, who promised more vigorous protests. “Carrie Lam has created a governance crisis.”
Lam said the bill was “unlikely” to gain passage as she pressed her effort to curb the protests that have shut down main highway arteries and forced businesses to close.
“The concerns over the past few months have been caused by deficiencies in the work of the (Hong Kong) government,” she said. “I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility.”
Lam said the bill and resulting protest led to “anxieties” in her city of more than 7 million people.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam holds a press conference in Hong Kong. (Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
“For this I offer my most sincere apologies to all people of Hong Kong,” she said.
But she did not permanently rescind the legislation, which would ease extradition rules to, among other places, mainland China. And she said she planned on completing the final three years of her five-year term as chief executive.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said Lam’s apology fell short.
“Carrie Lam must declare #China #extradition #law #dead and won’t be resurrected,” Mo posted on Twitter.
Two weeks of protests reached a climax Sunday when an estimated 2 million people jammed the city’s streets. Some semblance of normalcy was returning to the city Tuesday with the reopening of many streets, businesses and government offices.
Hong Kong operates under a “one country, two systems” framework that was supposed to include the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. Hong Kong has been fending off encroachment on its autonomy ever since.
The legislation would allow Hong Kong to extradite suspected criminals without a prior agreement. Foes say the law could be used to ship dissidents to the mainland for trial. The U.S. State Department weighed in last week, expressing “grave concern” over the impact the extradition proposal would have on Hong Kong’s status with the mainland.
The legislation was actually triggered by a homicide case last year involving Taiwan. Taiwanese authorities were unable to prosecute a Hong Kong man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Taipei because he fled to Hong Kong.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has decried the legislation, however, threatening to post a travel advisory for Hong Kong if the bill becomes law.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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