HK extradition bill: Financial Secretary Paul Chan says city economy is ‘stable and orderly’ despite protests

18-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 10:16 AM Print This Post

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has said the recent tense social atmosphere had inevitably affected some aspects of the economy and livelihood, even though Hong Kong’s economic and financial markets were still operating in a “stable and orderly manner”.

Chan’s remarks on Sunday came as one of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisers, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, said the city leader should apologise to Hongkongers for the controversy and damage the bill had caused. In a statement issued at 8.30pm on Sunday, Lam apologised, admitting there had been deficiencies in the government’s work.

The amendment bill, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which the city lacks an extradition deal, including mainland China, where critics said there was a lack of guarantees for fair trials.

Lam announced on Saturday she would suspend the bill, but not withdraw it altogether or apologise for the serious conflict caused by her government’s campaign to force it through the legislature.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters blocked streets around the Legislative Council complex, bringing parts of the city to a standstill.

Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to fend off the protesters who blocked lawmakers from debating the bill. Lam defended the force’s actions, which were criticised by many Hongkongers.

“I hope this will help alleviate the atmosphere and tension in the society and provide time and space for all parties to respond to dialogue in a calm manner and rational negotiation,” said Chan in comments on the bill’s suspension in his weekly blog.

“When the social atmosphere is tense, some aspects of the economy and livelihood will be disrupted,” he said, adding he had been monitoring the situation with other officials.

Chan also said: “Even though the external environment continues to be unclear and the social atmosphere is tense, overall, Hong Kong’s economic and financial markets are still operating in a stable and orderly manner.”

Last week, the government has for the first time in its history postponed the tender of a large waterfront residential site at the former Kai Tak airport due to public access being blocked to the government Secretariat Tender Box.

Chan said a new date for the close of tender will be announced this week.

He said the government would continue to monitor market conditions and prepare for potential risks.

Ip, who is an Executive Council member, said the chief executive should say sorry to Hongkongers.

“The chief executive has apologised to pro-establishment lawmakers, I feel that she should also apologise to Hongkongers,” she said on a television programme.

“Whether the bill has problems or not, it has caused so many Hongkongers to worry, so many businesses’ losses? Hong Kong seldom sees so many malls closed and the stock market to become turbulent, she has to apologise to Hongkongers for these.”

Ip, who is also a New People’s Party lawmaker, insisted there were no problems with bill itself, but the issue was with the government’s poor explanation.

But she also attempted to pacify angry Hongkongers by saying Lam’s decision to suspend the legislation is equivalent to “scrapping” it, given the term of the legislature would end July next year.

She also said the administration had been caught between a rock and a hard place after the massive procession last Sunday.

“If it would withdraw the bill whenever there’s a march, there would be even more marches in future,” Ip said on Sunday, hours ahead of another procession. “The government has to observe it first.”

Ip said the government had decided to make up its mind after the violent clashes on Wednesday as there is no guarantee that the Legco could continue its normal operation.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, another Executive Council member, also said he thought the possibility of the government taking the bill back to the legislature in the coming year is very small.

Moreover, with the Legco elections next year, he said it was very unlikely for the bill to be tabled again.

“There is not a big difference [of pausing the bill] from withdrawing the bill,” Tong said on a radio programme.

He also said he was disappointed that “social justice lost to politics and that a solution cannot be found for something everyone thinks is wrong”.

Tong told the parents of Poon Hiu-wing, the pregnant Hongkonger who was killed in Taiwan, which triggered the bill amendment, that the government did their best.

Poon’s mother had been pleading to the government to amend the law quickly so that murder suspect and Poon’s boyfriend, Chan Tong-kai, can be extradited to Taiwan and face justice for her daughter’s killing.

Hong Kong does not have an extradition deal with Taiwan at present, which the Hong Kong government has held up as major reason for pursuing the fugitive legislation change.

Former lawmaker Tong also said it was not fair to blame Lam for the ongoing crisis.

“Lam in my heart is a very capable government official, but she is also a person and a mother, who was touched by [the Taiwan tragedy's] mother,” he said.

Tong also called on the government to set up a department in charge of research to more accurately gauge changes in public attitudes.


Category: Hong Kong

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