Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Withdraws Controversial Extradition Bill

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has finally fully withdrawn a controversial bill that allowed extradition to mainland China and sparked three months of dramatic protests in the financial hub, CNN reported.

The decision to cave in to one of protesters’ five core demands marked a dramatic U-turn for Lam, who for months has refused to withdraw the bill.

“We must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions,” Lam said in a video statement Wednesday evening. “After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that this discontentment extends far beyond the bill.”

But Lam refused to give ground on protesters’ four other demands, including greater democracy for the city and an independent commission into police conduct, saying all investigations would be carried out by the existing Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

Instead, she announced the addition of a former education bureau chief and former judge to the IPCC. Lam said the government’s priority now was to restore law and order to Hong Kong. “Let’s replace conflicts with conversations and let’s look for solutions,” she said.

Lam suspended the extradition bill in June after more than 1 million people marched against it, with protesters surrounding the city’s legislature on the day of its planned second reading.

That suspension did not satisfy protesters, who demanded the bill’s complete withdrawal — making it harder for the government to rush the law through at a later date. A withdrawn bill would need to go back to the beginning of the legislative process, whereas a suspended one could resume where it left off.

In recent weeks, protesters’ tactics have become increasingly violent as young people felt the government was refusing to consider their demands. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien said that Lam’s withdrawal may not stem their anger. “I believe the withdrawal of the bill … may be too late because this movement has become more than the bill,” he said.

Activist Joshua Wong, who was last week arrested in a police sweep of activists and opposition politicians, wrote on Twitter: “Carrie Lam’s repeated failure in understanding the situation has made this announcement completely out of touch – She needs to address to ALL Five Demands: STOP PROSECUTION, STOP CALLING US RIOTERS, INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF POLICE and FREE ELECTION!”

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