Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive announced an indefinite suspension of a debate pertaining to a bill that will allow suspected criminals to be extradited to Mainland China. This was after a series of protests were held by hundreds of thousands of residents who claim that the bill will give China too much control over Hong Kong and political opponents of the Chinese state may be targeted, reports BBC on June 14, 2019.
Per the report, Carrie Lam announced that the debate concerning an extradition bill to Mainland China, Taiwan and Macau has been suspended. The bill seeks to extradite suspected criminals living in Hong Kong as well as Chinese and foreign nationals in the city to these regions. However, its debate has only been suspended indefinitely because a date for “the next step forward” has not been set.
The news is coming at a time when Lam had seemed adamant about changing her stance about the bill but has now decided to listen to the views of the society. According to the Hong Kong leader, “There were indeed inadequacies, the bill has caused a lot of division in society.” She also said that her government has decided to adhere to calls that it should “pause and think.” In the same vein, her priority is to restore peace and order in Hong Kong.
While revealing what led to Lam’s sudden change of heart, the media outlined that over a million protesters had paraded the streets on Sunday. The same was the case on Wednesday even though there were only hundreds of thousands on the said day. Wednesday’s protest was carried out around the government’s headquarters in a bid to stop the second debate for the bill.
It was not a peaceful demonstration because the police used pepper sprays, tear gas, rubber bullets, etc. on people. About 22 policemen and 60 civilians were injured, while 11 people were arrested.
The debate may have been postponed, but it seems protest leaders are not contented with just having it discontinued. According to them, the government is only delaying the bill until when the opposition calms down. As such, they will not be manipulated with the idea that debates for the bill have been paused. Plans have also been made to carry out another demonstration on Sunday and a strike on Monday.
These civilians believe that if the bill is passed, then political oppositions will be susceptible to the law in China. There is also the belief that Hong Kong residents will be exposed to China’s flawed judicial system where there are alleged torture, forced confessions, and arbitrary detentions of suspects. Moreover, it could give China more control over Hong Kong’s judicial system.
The mixed views may be unexpected since China and Hong Kong operates under a “one country, two systems” rule that is quite unique. Each has its own legislative, judicial, and economic system. The latter was as a result of sovereignty being returned to China in 1997 after the East Asian country was colonized by the British from 1841.
Nevertheless, Hong Kong’s government claimed the extradition bill is aimed at protecting the country from criminals and as such, the bill could possibly “plug the loopholes” which will ensure that the city is not an arbor for criminals. The latter can be attributed to a recent event of a Hong Kong man who allegedly killed his girlfriend in Taiwan and means were sought to extradite him to no avail.
On the other hand, China’s foreign ministry has backed Carrie Lam in her quest for peace. According to him, “The Chinese Central Government expresses its support, respect and understanding for the [Hong Kong] government’s decision.” Whichever is the case, Hong Kong has pointed out that the final decision on who it extradites to China would still lay in its court even if the bill is passed.