On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to put aside her proposed extradition agreement with China, after apologizing for the bill for the second time in the past week.
Lam spoke again in a news conference, telling the people of Hong Kong, “I have heard you loud and clear and have reflected deeply on all that has transpired.” Lam explained that the bill has been “stopped immediately,” and that “the bill will lapse.”
The proposed bill will expire in July of next year if Hong Kong’s Legislature does not push the bill forward.
As many as 2 million people in Hong Kong filled the streets on Sunday, June 16, in an unprecedented, citywide protest against the controversial extradition bill that would increase Beijing’s ability to arrest and extradite people in Hong Kong who are suspected of a crime. However, the people of Hong Kong see this as a clear encroachment upon their rights by China’s authoritarian government. Many in Hong Kong fear that the law could be used as a political weapon and target anyone whom China’s communist party views as a political opponent. This could include democracy supporters, journalists, and human rights advocates, among others.
The proposed extradition law has also been unpopular with business leaders in the region, some of whom have been outspoken and threatened to leave Hong Kong rather than be subjected to an uncertain and politically charged legal climate.
The protesters demanded that the proposed bill be scrapped by legislators, and called for Lam to step down as chief executive. Lam has also been facing mounting pressure from former Hong Kong officials and 200 members of Hong Kong’s Election Committee (the group that anoints the Special Administrative Region’s executive) over the controversial legislation. For now, Lam is refusing to resign. She hopes that her apologies and concessions made during the past week will be enough to preserve and appease critics, which now number in the millions.
Lam, who was approved by Beijing and who answers directly to Party Chairman Xi Jinping, had originally vowed to push the proposed China extradition bill through Hong Kong’s Legislature before the end of its summer working session. Ten days ago, when 1 million demonstrators filled the streets to express outrage over the proposed law, Lam casually dismissed the protests as the antics of “unruly children” who needed a parent’s supervision and discipline.