By Agence France-Presse
Hong Kong’s embattled leader on Saturday said a divisive bill that would allow extraditions to China would be “suspended” in a major climbdown from her government after a week of unprecedented protests.
In this file photo taken on June 12, 2019 police clash with protesters during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong.
(Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
“The government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise,” chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters.
The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Three days earlier record crowds held a record-breaking rally in which organizers said more than a million people hit the streets calling for the law to be scrapped.
As criticism mounted, Lam found herself under pressure to backtrack, even from within her own political camp and advisors.
At a press conference on Saturday, she announced work on the extradition bill would be paused, adding that no date would be set for its reintroduction.
“The council will halt its work in relation to the bill until our working communication explanation and listening to opinions is completed,” she said. “We have no intention to set a deadline for this work.”
She said the extradition law was needed to plug loopholes and stop the international finance hub being a haven for criminals but admitted her administration had underestimated the public backlash.
“I feel deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society following the relatively calm periods of the past two years,” she said.