World

Hong Kong’s Lam says extradition bill is ‘dead’

But critics claim HK chief is 'playing with words'

HONG KONG : The extradition bill that sparked Hong Kong's biggest crisis in decades is dead, the territory's leader said yesterday, adding that the government's work on the legislation had been a "total failure", but critics accused her of playing with words.

The bill, which would allow people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, sparked huge and at times violent street protests and plunged the former British colony into turmoil.

In mid-June, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam responded to protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets by suspending the bill, but demonstrations that shut government offices and brought parts of the financial centre to a standstill continued.

Her latest attempt to restore order did not satisfy many protesters who stood by demands that she completely withdraw the bill and accused her of playing word games.

"There are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council," Ms Lam told reporters yesterday.

"So, I reiterate here, there is no such plan, the bill is dead."

The bill triggered outrage across broad sections of Hong Kong society amid concerns it would threaten the much-cherished rule of law that underpins the city's international financial status.

REBUFFED

Lawyers and rights groups say China's justice system is marked by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention, claims that Beijing denies.

University students who have been out in force during the protests rebuffed Ms Lam's comments. "What we want is to completely withdraw the bill.

"She is playing word games," said Mr Chan Wai Lam William, general officer of the Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Demonstrators have called for Ms Lam to resign as Hong Kong chief executive, for an independent investigation into police actions against protesters, and for the government to abandon the description of a violent protest on June 12 as a riot.

"It is not a simple thing for CE (chief executive) to step down, and I myself still have the passion and undertaking to service Hong Kong people," Ms Lam said, when asked about the protesters' demands.

"I hope that Hong Kong society can give me and my team the opportunity and room to allow us to use our new governance style to respond to people's demand in economy and in livelihood." - REUTERS

WORLD