Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam announced that the government would withdraw an extradition bill that sparked months of mass protests and confrontations with police, The New York Times reports.
The bill, which would have allowed for extradition to mainland China, sparked unprecedented protests but pulling it was only one of the demonstrators’ demands. Protesters are also calling for an independent investigation into police brutality, amnesty for protesters who were arrested, and direct elections for all political offices.
“Incidents over these past two months have shocked and saddened Hong Kong people,” Lam said Wednesday. “We are all very anxious about Hong Kong, our home. We all hope to find a way out of the current impasse and unsettling times.”
“Just a day before, China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office had signaled an uncompromising stance toward the protests,” The Times reported. “Yang Guang, a spokesman for the office, said at a briefing in Beijing that there could be ‘no middle ground, no hesitance and no dithering, when it comes to stopping the violence and controlling riots in Hong Kong.’”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping suggested an easing of that position in a speech Tuesday.
“On matters of principle, not an inch will be yielded,” he said, “but on matters of tactics there can be flexibility.”
Protests show no sign of waning:
Moderate pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien acknowledged to The Times that pulling the bill might have calmed the protests in June but, “with the accumulation of so much resentment, so many accusations and so many disputes.”
Tien said that an independent investigation into the police response to the protest was “100% necessary” but Lam resisted calls for an independent commission. Instead, she said, she would add two members to an existing police review board.
Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker, called Lam’s statement a “political performance.”
“That it took her three months to formally use the word withdraw is truly too little, too late,” Mo said. “A big mistake has been made.”
Hong Kong may be slipping into recession:
“More than 1,100 people have been arrested since early June. The police, who have used batons, rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters, have faced allegations of excessive force,” The Times reported. “Months of protests have started to ripple through the economy, hurting some small businesses and the tourism industry. Many economists believe the city’s economy is now slipping into recession.”