The autonomous government of Hong Kong has announced on Saturday the indefinite suspension of the controversial extradition bill, according to local media. The chief minister, Carrie Lam, has offered a press conference at 3:00 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m.) in the central government offices in the city center, where she has made the decision public. This announcement represents a spectacular victory for the demonstrators who were preparing to throw themselves back onto the streets on Sunday in a massive way to protest against the measure that would have allowed for the first time to deliver suspects to China.
In the heated press conference, Lam said that the suspension is not related to the demonstration planned for this Sunday or adopted to “pacify the people.” According to her, it was produced to calm the spirits after the dissolution by force of the concentration of tens of thousands of young people who surrounded the parliament on Wednesday to prevent that the bill was processed. Also to give more time to communicate better with the public about the bill. “This bill has caused a great division in society,” he admitted, insisting that the problem was not the design of the law, but “the doubts and inaccuracies” in the public perception of this document.
The bill has its origin in a murder case in Taiwan, whose main suspect is being held in Hong Kong for other crimes. In the current situation, the autonomous territory does not have extradition mechanisms to other countries with which it has not signed an explicit treaty, an “obvious legal vacuum” that, as insisted by the chief minister, it is essential to cover. But Taipei had already indicated that they would not ask for the delivery of this fugitive. “The urgency of approving this bill at this stage seems to have disappeared,” said Lam.
The chief minister reiterated that some of the participants in the demonstrations on Wednesday, which resulted in 81 wounded, including students, journalists and police, had behaved violently. “Several were carrying instruments that do not take place in a peaceful demonstration,” he said, insisting that some had paving stones and others blocked the streets with vehicles.
Lam had declared throughout this week, and despite the fact that the demonstration last Sunday brought together a million people, who would maintain the processing of the bill, with a view to it being finally approved before the end of this month. But in recent days it had become clear that support for his position was fading, between his own government and that of Peking.
China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, flatly denied on Thursday in statements to the BBC television network that Beijing had asked the Hong Kong government to approve the law. “The central government of Beijing did not give instructions, no order to introduce these amendments. These amendments were initiated by the Hong Kong government, they have their origin in a murder case in Taiwan. ” Despite this, Lam insisted that he has “the confidence, respect and support” of the central government in Beijing.
With the suspension “sine die”, the Hong Kong government hopes to dilute tensions and prevent new scenes of violence in the streets, similar to Wednesday. Those scenes that would have damaged the position of Beijing in the face of the possible meeting between the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and the American, Donald Trump, during the summit of the G20 in Osaka (Japan) at the end of the month.
So far it is not clear the impact that the announcement could have on the demonstration called for this Sunday. Speaking on Friday, Bonnie Leung, spokesperson for the Forum of Human and Civil Rights, convener of the rally, had assured that “we demand that the bill be completely discarded, not only suspended. Until that happens, we will continue to manifest ourselves. “