Hong Kong extradition Bill officially axed


HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s legislature has withdrawn planned legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but the move is unlikely to end months of unrest as it meets just one of five demands of the protesters.

The rallying cry of the protesters, who have trashed public buildings in the Chinese-ruled city, set street fires and thrown petrol bombs at police, has been “five demands, not one less”, meaning that the withdrawal of the Bill yesterday makes no difference.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had said many times that the Bill was as good as dead and that other demands, including universal suffrage and amnesty for all those charged with rioting, were beyond her control.

Protesters are also calling for her to stand down and for an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality during a long hot summer of running battles on the streets.

“There aren’t any big differences between suspension and withdrawal (of the extradition Bill) ... it’s too little, too late,” said 27-year-old protester Connie, hours before the Bill was withdrawn.

“There are still other demands the government needs to meet, especially the problem of police brutality.”Most protesters do not give their full name to avoid being identified.

Police have responded to the violence with water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets and several live rounds.

Protesters are angry at what they see as Beijing encroaching on the former British colony’s “one country, two systems” formula enshrined during the handover in 1997, which permits the city wide-ranging freedoms not available on the mainland such as an independent judiciary.

The extradition Bill would have allowed defendants charged with serious crimes to be sent for trial abroad, including to Communist Party-controlled courts in China.

The Bill was seen as the latest move by Beijing to erode those freedoms, though China has denied these claims and accuses foreign countries of fomenting trouble.

China, which has many times expressed confidence in Lam and her government to end the unrest, was drawing up a plan to replace her with an “interim” chief executive, the Financial Times reported, citing people briefed on the deliberations.Lam has become a lightning rod for protests and another of the protesters’ demands has been for her to stand down.

The leading candidates to succeed Lam include Norman Chan, the former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang, who has also served as the territory’s financial secretary and chief secretary for administration, the report said.

A spokesman said Tang did not comment on speculation and that he supported Lam as chief executive.A senior official in Beijing said the Financial Times story was wrong and none of the suggested candidates listed could possibly take over from Lam based on the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution which came into force in 1997. — Reuters

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