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Agencies
June 16, 2019

HK suspends unpopular bill indefinitely

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A
Agencies
June 16, 2019

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has said she will suspend a proposed extradition bill indefinitely, a move the Chinese government said it supports.

Lam said in a press conference on Saturday that she took the decision in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, which would enable authorities to send some suspects to stand trial in mainland China.

Many in the former British colony worried that the move would further erode cherished legal protections and freedom promised by Beijing when it took control in 1997. A mass protest over the issue had been planned for today (Sunday).

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets in demonstrations earlier this week. Protests turned violent on Wednesday, adding to pressure on Lam to back down. Lam said the government would study the matter further.

She said: “After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise. I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind. We have no intention to set a deadline for this work.”

Lam said she would “adopt a sincere and humble attitude in accepting criticism” over the government’s handling of the issue. She had previously refused to withdraw the bill, and many protesters have demanded her resignation. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called the decision, announced hours earlier by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, an attempt to “listen more widely to the views of the community and restore calm to the community as soon as possible.” “We support, respect and understand this decision,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.

Clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday turned violent, leaving about 80 people injured - including 22 police officers. Protests died down late in the week, but by midnight on Friday there were still dozens of youths singing and keeping a vigil near the city’s government headquarters, where demonstrators had tussled with police who deployed tear gas, pepper spray, hoses and steel batons as thousands pushed through barricades.

Lam declared that Wednesday’s violence was “rioting”, potentially raising severe legal penalties for those arrested for taking part. In past cases of unrest, authorities have waited months or years before rounding up protest leaders.

Prior to Saturday’s announcement by Lam, some members of the Executive Council, Hong Kong’s cabinet, said she should rethink plans to rush the legislation through.

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