HK extradition bill: Carrie Lam strikes conciliatory tone, but insists legislation will go ahead as planned despite mass protest

11-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader struck a conciliatory tone on Monday, pledging to reach out to critics of her controversial extradition bill, but insisted it would not be dropped and she would not resign.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would put on record its commitments to human rights safeguards as part of any future process, and pledged to improve communication on the legislation between her administration and the public.

She made her comments the day after a mass protest gripped the city on Sunday.

Organisers said more than a million people took to the streets to show their anger at legislation that would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions which the city lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China.

Despite thanking those who took part in the rally, Lam stuck to her guns and dismissed calls for her to stand down.

“For those who have expressed their views, whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with us, I want to thank every one of you because… the scrutiny of our work is an important factor to enhance governance of Hong Kong,” she said.

Asked if she would step down, Lam said she had given everything since taking office two years ago and stressed that a stable government was needed at a time when the city faces economic instability.

On Monday, Lam said she understood marchers were concerned about the proposed legal changes, and vowed to allay their fears by taking on board suggestions put forward by some pro-establishment parties on Sunday in the protest’s immediate aftermath.

Those included further explanation of the proposals and a pledge to provide regular reports to the Legislative Council about its implementation, if the bill is passed.

The government has failed to win over the public despite rolling out a second round of concessions last month. Critics said its pledge to allow additional human rights safeguards to an ad hoc extradition agreement, instead of the legislation itself, would not guarantee the right to a fair trial after someone is extradited.

But Lam again promised that these safeguards would have a legally binding effect on the government, so fugitives would only be transferred to jurisdictions when those conditions had been met.

She added that security chief John Lee Ka-chiu would put the safeguards on the record by delivering a “solemn statement” when the bill resumes its second reading on Wednesday.

The chief executive insisted the bill only provided supplementary arrangements to close a serious loophole in the city’s justice system.

“Our long-term goal is to forge a long-term agreement with as many jurisdictions as possible,” she said, adding that the administration would start negotiation with jurisdictions including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau.

In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen openly supported the march and “Hong Kong people’s pursuit of freedom, democracy and human rights” in a Facebook post on Monday.

Tsai also called on Taiwan people to reject the “one country, two systems” principle, which Beijing has been using to govern Hong Kong and touting to the self-ruled island.

“Once we accept ‘one country, two systems’, we will lose our rights to defend freedom, democracy and human rights, as well as our rights to choose our own future,” Tsai wrote.

In Hong Kong, Lam appeared emotional as she dismissed suggestions that the extradition bill was “an order from Beijing”.

“It is out of our clear conscience and commitment to Hong Kong,” she said.

Lam who said during her election campaign of 2017 that she would resign “if mainstream opinion makes me no longer able to continue the job” also dismissed suggestions that she was ignoring the public.

“I and my team have not ignored any view expressed on this bill. We have been listening attentively and humbly,” she said, pointing to the two rounds of concessions the government had offered since the bill was first floated in February.

She said the “generally” peaceful and orderly march on Sunday had once again proved that the freedoms and rights of Hong Kong had not been eroded, but she said she was very sad to see the clashes between protesters and police which erupted after midnight.


Category: Hong Kong

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