After seismic clashes between protestors and the police that rocked Hong Kong for weeks, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has announced that the controversial extradition Bill that sparked the protests is now “dead”.
Chairing the Executive Council meeting on Tue (9 Jul), she said: “I have almost immediately put a stop to the (bill) amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead.”
“Our work on the extradition bill amendment is a complete failure,” she told reporters during a news conference on Tue.
South China Morning Post reported, however, that while her latest statement marks a shift from her earlier stance that the Bill “will die” in 2020, it remains ambiguous as to whether the Bill will be fully withdrawn as protestors have demanded.
She and other senior officials, she said, in reference to the 12 Jun protests, “have responded to other concerns that appear during the protests”.
“We understand that some of the protestors used self-made weapons to attack police officials … but we never said it was a riot,” she said, adding: “And I also don’t think that the definition of a certain event will influence our future work.”
“There have been calls for us to drop or to not pursue legal action against some of the protestors. That violates the rule of law of Hong Kong.
“Nobody, including me, the Executive, should interfere with their [the relevant authorities’] work or the prosecution’s work,” said Lam.
The Chief Executive also said that an independent committee was set up to investigate the actions of police officers and protestors throughout the protests in the recent weeks.
“All members of the committee will proactively study the work [of the police] – that includes all of the fact-sorting, and all of the public’s activities between June and July. What actually happened, and to present the actual truth of what happened … What actions the police have taken accordingly, [and whether] the actions that were taken by the police legal.”
“I hope that this independent investigation will be done in six months, and that I will receive a report on my desk,” she said, adding: “I will publish the result of this report to let everybody know what actually happened over the past months.”
Lam also urged “all the people who were involved in the activities over the past month — whether police officers or protestors — to “submit materials to this independent investigation committee,” and gave the assurance that all such information will be treated as confidential.
“I understand that the responses I’ve made so far may not meet all of the requests and requirements made by the protestors. This is not about me or myself or my dignity. This is to strike balance between the Hong Kong government [and the protestors], and I believe what I’ve suggested is feasible and practical,” she said.
“So I hope that everybody will give a chance to the Hong Kong SAR government, to remain calm and let us walk out of this troublesome situation, and let us learn our lesson in the face of large-scale public events.”
“Personally, I take full responsibility of what happened,” said Beijing-backed Lam.
China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming on Sun told BBC ONE’s Andrew Marr in an exclusive live interview that the idea for the extradition Bill came from the Hong Kong government.
“Just as the Chief Executive said, she received no instruction from Beijing. She received no order from Beijing. It is completely the initiative launched by Hong Kong SAR government, to make Hong Kong system more perfect, to improve the legal system,” said Liu.
Liu also reaffirmed mainland China’s commitment to the “One China, Two Systems” promise, suggesting that Hong Kong has greater autonomy over Lam’s government’s decision to introduce the Bill than some theories have suggested.
“There is no question about that. So you can see that from day one till now, the central government has not interfered at all. Every step of the way, we let the Hong Kong SAR government handle this,” Liu said.
The protests that swept across Hong Kong in recent weeks arose out of concerns over the scope of powers that will be granted upon certain jurisdictions Hong Kong decides to extradite crime suspects to – particularly mainland China – should the extradition Bill be passed, as certain factions remain sceptical of Beijing’s capacity to refrain from abusing the extradition arrangements.
Foreign Policy predicts that while such protests are either ignored or condemned by the government, as seen in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s response as well as that of the police force recently, “a large-scale general strike that gathers people from an array of different industries could be a third way to compel a constructive response from the authorities”.
WATCH: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam holds Executive Council meeting
BREAKING NEWS STORY – More to come.