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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdraws contentious extradition bill after summer of protests


Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announces the withdraw an extradition bill on Wednesday. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Wednesday that the government would withdraw a controversial extradition bill that has sparked widespread protests on the island throughout the summer.

“We must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions,” Lam said in a video statement. “After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that this discontentment extends far beyond this bill.”

The bill would have allowed for Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials, and its withdrawal marks a huge reversal for Lam, the Beijing-appointed leader who previously refused to bow to protesters.

In June, Lam suspended the bill amid initial backlash — even calling it “dead” — but the move was not enough to satisfy opponents, who demanded its full withdrawal. Many were suspicious her administration would later try to revive it and rush it into becoming law.

While the bill’s withdrawal has been a top priority for demonstrators in Hong Kong, it’s unclear whether it will be enough to end the intensifying protests, which have also increasingly focused on police brutality.

High school students wearing masks, deliver leaflets to support the school boycott, in Hong Kong.
High school students wearing masks, deliver leaflets to support the school boycott, in Hong Kong. (Kin Cheung/AP)

“It is too little, too late,” lawmaker Michael Tien said, emphasizing the move would not shift public opinion if it was not paired with additional concessions.

“The focus now has completely shifted. Most people do not remember what the bill is about but are more concerned about the escalating violence and alleged police heavy-handedness against protesters.”

Lam said the government would not accept other demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police misconduct and unconditional release. Instead, she appointed two new members to a police watchdog agency probing the matter.

In recent weeks, the protesters — many of them young people — have disrupted transportation and forced the closure of an airport earlier this month. Clashes between police and demonstrators have also continued to escalate since protests first kicked off in June.

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Massive protests ensue in Hong Kong against a proposed extradition bill to mainland China

Officers have said demonstrators have thrown gasoline bombs and rods at police while authorities have used water cannons, rubber bullets, batons and tear gas on protesters.

More than 1,100 people have been detained amid the unrest.

“Incidents over these past two months have shocked and saddened the Hong Kong people,” Lam said in her video broadcast. “We are all very anxious about Hong Kong, our home. We all hope to find a way out of the current impasse and unsettling time.

Lam explained that public frustration has made clear that her government needs to reassess, and that it plans to “address the discontent in society and to look for solutions.” She added that she will seek out dialogues with demonstrators as well as local community leaders, professionals and academics to discuss the community’s issues.

With News Wire Services