Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has delayed indefinitely a proposed law to allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial after widespread anger and large-scale protests in the Asian financial hub.
- It is one of the most significant backdowns by the Government since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule
- People marched through Hong Kong last week in protest
- The bill has many concerned it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status
In one of the most significant backdowns by the Government since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Ms Lam said the city’s legislature would stop all work on the bill.
Next steps would be decided after consultations with various parties, she said.
The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong’s 7 million residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or traveling in the city, has many concerned it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.
Ms Lam told media on Saturday she took the move in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, which would enable authorities to send some suspects to stand trial in mainland courts.
Many in the former British colony worried it would further erode cherished legal protections and freedoms promised by Beijing when it took control in 1997.
About 1 million people marched through Hong Kong last Sunday to protest the proposed changes, according to organisers of the march.
Street demonstrations through the week were met with tear gas and rubber bullets from the police, plunging the city into turmoil and adding to pressure on Ms Lam to back down.
Adding to tensions, the extradition bill has drawn criticism from US and British politicians and human rights groups, prompting Beijing to hit back with warnings against “interference” in its internal affairs.
It is unclear how the local leadership might defuse the crisis, given Beijing’s strong support for the extradition bill and its distaste for dissent — and for foreign pressure.
The decision to indefinitely walk away from efforts to drive the bill through the city’s legislature by July would have been unthinkable last week, when the law’s passage seemed inevitable and Ms Lam remained defiant.
Beyond the public outcry, the extradition bill had spooked some of Hong Kong’s tycoons into starting to move their personal wealth offshore, according to financial advisers, bankers and lawyers familiar with the details.
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