After almost three months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam is reportedly due to announce the withdrawal of the government’s controversial extradition Bill.
A government source told South China Morning Post reported Wed (4 Sep) that Lam’s decision to withdraw the Bill was to “streamline the legislative agenda” ahead of the reopening of the Legislative Council (LegCo) next month as a part of a “technical procedure”.
Another source told SCMP that Lam’s move to withdraw the Bill “is a bid to cool down” the simmering tensions as a result of the unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for 13 weeks on end, and after she was advised by “19 city leaders” a fortnight ago in a meeting at her residence.
SCMP noted that Lam is due to hold a meeting with her pro-establishment allies at her official residence in Government House at 4pm HKT today, according to other sources.
Other than the 43 pro-establishment allies, Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference were also invited to attend the meeting today.
Opponents of the extradition Bill previously criticised Lam’s reluctance to fully withdraw the Bill despite repeated calls to do so, on top of other demands such as the setting up of an independent inquiry into allegations of widespread police brutality during the protests, and Lam’s resignation from her post as Chief Executive.
Lam’s suspension of the Bill, critics argue, does not have the same effect as a full withdrawal, as suspending a Bill only makes the piece of legislation dormant, and leaves room for the LegCo to reintroduce the Bill in the future should the chaos in Hong Kong subside.
The controversy over the extradition Bill concerns 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.
SCMP reported that the current Hong Kong protests are not the first instance of such protests over a controversial piece of legislation, as the government under then-Chief Executive Tung Chee-wah had tried to enact the national security law in 2003.
The national security law was due to be enacted as a constitutional duty under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, according to SCMP.
However, after mass protests involving as many as 500,000 people opposing the introduction of the national security law, Tung delayed the second reading of the draft bill, while reassuring the public that LegCo will revise the legislation.
Two months later, Tung withdrew the draft bill completely, SCMP added.