Hong Kong protests: Chief Executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw the extradition bill, meeting at least one key demand of protesters

South China Morning Post

The announcement comes after three months of demonstrations that have rocked the city and escalated in violence from police and demonstrators

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam had previously suspended the bill, and declared it ‘dead’, but had insisted it would not be formally withdrawn.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is set to formally withdraw on Wednesday afternoon the much-despised extradition bill that sparked the nearly three-month long protest crisis now roiling the city, sources have told the SCMP.

The decision will mean that the government is finally agreeing to one of the five demands of the protesters, who have taken to the streets over the past 13 weeks to voice not just their opposition to the law, but the overall way the city is run, in demonstrations that have become increasingly violent.

Lam had earlier already suspended the bill, which would have allowed for the extradition of criminals to jurisdictions with which the city lacked a treaty, including the mainland, but critics have not been satisfied.

They argued that for as long as the bill remained on the legislative agenda, there was every chance it could be brought back up within the Legislative Council’s current term, which ends next year.

The chief executive refused to budge, saying the bill was suspended to signal that the government’s intention – to close existing loopholes to the legislation to go after criminals who were treating the city as a safe haven – remained a worthy and legitimate goal.

A day after she suspended the bill, an estimated two million people took to the streets on June 16, and more protests have since followed.

The chief executive then declared the bill to be “dead”, stressing that there was not a chance that it would be tabled. People again criticised her for being prideful in not wanting to be seen to be backing down.

A timeline of the protests so far

Last weekend saw some of the fiercest battles between protesters and police, as the force launched a wave of mass arrests on the eve of a banned march, and demonstrators threw 100 petrol bombs at targets such as police headquarters and stations and government buildings.

“This gesture to formally withdraw is a bid to cool down the atmosphere,” a source said.

She is due to meet her pro-establishment allies this afternoon at her official residence in Government House, other sources said.

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All 43 pro-establishment lawmakers were invited last night to meet Carrie Lam at 4pm today.

Apart from the formal withdrawal of the bill, the protesters have asked for the government to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate police conduct in tackling the protests, grant amnesty to those who have been arrested, stop characterising the protests as riots, and restart the city’s stalled political reform process.