Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, on Tuesday publicly apologised for having proposed controversial legislation that would allow criminal suspects to mainland China for persecution.
“I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” The New York Times quoted Lam as saying during a press conference at the government headquarters here.
She added, “I’ve still got much to learn and do in better balancing diverse interests, in listening more to all walks of life and in taking our society forward.”
However, the leader, who had already announced the extradition bill’s indefinite suspension, did not concede to protesters’ demands that it be withdrawn entirely. Instead, she said that as long as there were public disputes over its contents, legislative work on it would not be resumed.
Without further giving in to the demands of protestors who sought for her resignation, Lam noted that she would not resign as Hong Kong’s chief executive, but acknowledged that “as for my governance in the future, it will be difficult.”
She also tried to express concern for injured protesters without undercutting the Hong Kong police, whose use of force has added to public anger.
However, the announcement was met with cheers from around 100 protesters who had gathered outside the central government building where Lam was speaking.
Despite Lam’s announcement on Saturday that the legislation was being suspended indefinitely, around two million protesters turned out the next day in larger numbers than ever.
The extradition bill would make it easier for Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, to send people suspected of crimes to jurisdictions with which it does not have extradition agreements. That would include mainland China, where the judicial system is notoriously opaque and under the tight control of the ruling Communist Party, The New York Times reported.
Opponents worry that if the bill were to become law, anyone in the city could potentially be sent to the mainland, including dissidents.
The police have arrested at least 32 people since Wednesday when a demonstration outside the Hong Kong legislature turned violent. A group of protesters attempting to storm the building threw umbrellas and other objects at the police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.