Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says her government plans to officially withdraw a bill that critics say would harm the territory’s special legal status.
Lam announced the decision in a videotaped message that her office released on Wednesday. Opposition to the extradition bill has fueled three months of often violent protests in Hong Kong. If it were to become law, the measure would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
After large demonstrations in the Chinese-controlled territory earlier this year, Lam suspended the measure in June, but did not withdraw it. The Hong Kong chief now has formally withdrawn the proposed law. The move meets one of five demands made by the protestors.
Other demands include an independent investigation of reports that some police officers brutality attacked demonstrators. Another is for Hong Kongers to have more freedom when choosing their own leaders.
Hong Kong, a British territory until 1997, returned to mainland Chinese control under the “one country, two systems” understanding. The deal permitted Hong Kong to keep its special legal status for at least 50 years after the handover.
The unrest since June has interfered with everyday life in the city. Protestors have launched demonstrations on public transportation, causing subway train delays and closing the airport for nearly two days.
The Reuters news agency reports that more than 1,100 people have been arrested since the protests started.
On the day Lam announced the bill’s withdrawal, Hong Kong’s leading measure of stock prices rose nearly four percent — possibly a good sign from the business community.
Not satisfied with withdrawal
It is not clear if the protestors will be satisfied with the chief executive’s offer.
Joshua Wong is a pro-democracy activist. He told reporters after hearing Lam’s message that the withdrawal of the extradition bill was “too little, too late.”
Days earlier, Reuters received an audio recording of Lam telling Hong Kong business leaders that she had caused “havoc” by proposing the bill. She told the group that she was prepared to resign after giving a “deep apology.”
The protestors understood her comments to mean that China’s government would not let her resign.
However, on Tuesday, Lam said that she, “had not even contemplated” discussing resignation with Chinese leaders.
Lam also said she does not know how long it will take to end the civil disobedience campaign, but said she remains confident about a return to law and order.
Lam dismissed suggestions that China’s government wants to solve the crisis before October 1, the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.
Richard Green and Suzanne Sataline reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from Reuters. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
status – n. the condition of people or things in the eyes of the law; situation or story
extradition –n. the process whereby a person accused of a crime is sent to another state or country to face trial
havoc –n. a confusing and destructive situation
contemplate –v. to consider an issue or problem
confident –adj. to have a feeling or belief that you can do something
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