(TibetanReview.net, Jun17’19) – Although the extradition bill is seen to be as good as dead after it was put on indefinite delay following a million-strong protest the previous Sunday, people of Hong Kong turned up in double that number on Jun 16 to protest against what they saw as a steady erosion of the special administration’s promised autonomy under relentless squeeze from China, enforced by a pliant local administration.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, elected by an overwhelmingly pro-Beijing representative body, issued a rare apology on Jun 16, a day after she indefinitely delayed the extradition bill. The bill, if passed into law, would enable Hong Kong to extradite accused persons to face trial in China where the criminal justice system lacks basic safeguards and enables people to be convicted by party-controlled courts on trumped up charges on confession extracted under torture.
The city’s independent legal system, guaranteed under laws governing Hong Kong’s return from British rule under a “one country, two systems” formula, is seen by business and diplomatic communities as its strongest asset.
Reuters Jun 16 cited a government spokesman as saying in a statement that poor government work over the bill had led to “substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief.”
The statement quoted Lam as saying she “apologized to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.”
A government source said the bill would die a “natural death” without a timetable to relaunch it, reported scmp.com Jun 17.
The Reuters report said protesters formed a sea of black along roads, walkways and train stations across Hong Kong’s financial center to vent their frustration and anger at the bill and the government’s handling of the resulting demonstrations.
The protests are were stated to be the largest in Hong Kong since its handover from British rule in 1997 and certainly after Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
There were further protests after the million-strong protest of Jun 9, with police firing rubber bullets and teargas at protesters on Jun 12, injuring more than 70 people and further enraging the public.
The report noted that the protests had plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, just as months of pro-democracy “Occupy” demonstrations did in 2014, heaping pressure on Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing.
The report said Chinese censors had been working hard to erase or block news of the protests, wary that any large public rallies could inspire demonstrations on the mainland.
Asked repeatedly on Jun 15 if she would step down, Lam avoided answering directly and appealed to the public to “give us another chance”, the report said.