Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Hong Kong protests: leader Carrie Lam apologises for extradition bill

She says the shelved bill is now ‘unlikely to be revived’

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologised on Tuesday for backing a bill that would allow extraditions to China, a proposal that sparked days of extensive protests.

“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility,” Ms Lam said. “I offer my most sincere apologies to all people in Hong Kong.”

Despite calls for her resignation from protesters, Ms Lam declined to step down or withdraw the bill entirely. Activists rejected earlier apologies from Ms Lam for her handling of the bill.

She said, however, that work would not be revived on the contentious extradition bill unless it could be done well, noting that this was “unlikely” to happen during the current legislative session.

“In recognition of the anxiety and fears caused by the bill in the last few months, if we don’t have confidence from the people we will not proceed with the legislative exercise again,” Ms Lam said.

“I will not proceed with this legislative exercise if these fears and anxieties could not be adequately addressed.”

Protesters also want her to release all of the arrested demonstrators, to cease referring to the protest as a “riot” and to investigate police for excessive violence against protesters, which has included the use of tear gas.

Almost 80 people were injured in last week’s unrest, which began with a record-breaking protest on June 9. Demonstrators said it drew a million people – a figure beaten on Sunday with further protests attracting two million.

In a major demonstration on Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by baton-wielding riot police.

Many placards in the crowd on Sunday accused police of using excessive force.

One man died late on Saturday when he fell from a building while protesting, and many of Sunday’s demonstrators held white flowers in his memory.

The dispute has attracted global attention to the embarrassment of China, which has blamed foreigners for provoking the protests and urged other nations to stop becoming involved in what it regards as a domestic issue.

Critics of the proposed extradition bill, which is backed by Beijing, fear it will leave people vulnerable to China’s notoriously opaque courts system. But the Hong Kong government argued that it would “plug the loopholes” it says make the city a safe haven for criminals.

The business hub is anxious over the increasingly authoritarian Communist rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and are worried that the special autonomous status promised when China took control from Britain in 1997 is being eroded.

Updated: June 18, 2019 05:04 PM

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