HK’s largest pro-establishment party ‘would not oppose’ city leader Carrie Lam announcing full withdrawal of extradition bill to heal rifts in society

25-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Announcing a complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill and holding talks with protesters could help solve the problems facing Hong Kong’s leader, the city’s largest pro-establishment party has said.

But Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also warned on Sunday that demands for an independent inquiry into police use of force in protests outside the Legislative Council on June 12 could “easily come up with biased conclusions”.

Lee was not alone in offering advice to the government amid the fallout over the bill, suspended last weekend after two massive protests and the violent June 12 clashes between protesters and police.

Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan called for the appointment of new advisers to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s cabinet to provide a wider spectrum of views while former minister Frederick Ma Si-hang urged the government to pay attention to the dissatisfaction of young people.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

Student unions of nine higher education institutions on Sunday issued a joint statement to reiterate that protests would continue until the government met their four demands: withdrawal of the bill; retraction of all references to the clashes on June 12 as a riot; all charges dropped against protesters; and an independent inquiry on the use of force by police.

Street booths were set up to promote their cause, while signatories of an urgent appeal for Lam to withdraw the bill, signed by retired lawmakers and ex-officials, including former security chief Peter Lai Hing-ling, snowballed from 20 to 32.

“The government’s refusal to withdraw the bill is fuelling suspicion and instability,” their statement read.

They also proposed that an independent inquiry be set up to look into all aspects of the government’s handling of the bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives between Hong Kong and jurisdictions it lacked such an arrangement with, including mainland China.

Lam’s decision on June 15 to suspend the bill damaged the government’s relationship with the pro-Beijing camp, which had previously been persuaded to give its full support to the proposed legislation.

Commentators believed Lam avoided using the word “withdraw” as it would annoy the camp and Beijing. But Lee questioned why officials insisted the bill had only been suspended.

“From what has happened recently, it seems this response is really not very practical,” she said on a television programme.

“Officials at all levels of the government know the relevant work has stopped, and many people have asked, ‘Why insist [on calling it suspended]?’”

The lawmaker said her party would understand if the government announced a complete withdrawal of the bill, in an effort to heal society.

Lee also said the government could consider holding talks with protesters, even though they had no leaders.

“Dialogue must be better than confrontation. But… it’s not easy to handle this new mode of processions, because there is no leader,” she said.

But Lee, and Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s only delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative body, said they would not support an inquiry that targeted police.

“Police need to keep their morale, fight crime and protect the people. It won’t do society any good to target them,” Tam said, adding Beijing remained firmly supportive of Lam.

Chung, leader of the pro-business Liberal Party, meanwhile, said the government should only consider a broad and comprehensive inquiry into the recent controversy, such as whether foreign intervention was involved.

He said the Executive Council, Lam’s cabinet, should be reformed to bring in voices from both sides of the political divide.

Former commerce minister Ma, the outgoing MTR Corp chair, said the government should examine why young people were so disgruntled.

“Young people are the pillar of society. If they have great grievances about society, we will have a hard time ahead,” he said. “Hong Kong has a very serious sickness, and the government must think of ways to heal our home.”

Ma also said Hong Kong was now more polarised than during the 1967 riots.

The leftist riots of 1967 were a spillover from the Cultural Revolution, which began in mainland China a year earlier. The communist-instigated riots claimed 51 lives, including 15 in bombings.

But it was not for him to say whether any official should step down, he added.

“It should be his or her boss who should say, ‘you’re fine’,” the former official said.



Category: Hong Kong

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