Hong Kong protesters begin rally demanding leader resign | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

16 July, Tuesday


Hong Kong protesters begin rally demanding leader resign

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Protesters in Hong Kong are demanding the city's leader step down and withdraw an extradition bill. Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended an unpopular extradition bill and refused to apologize for promoting it.

Tens of thousands of protesters have been gathering on the streets Sunday demanding Hong Kong's leader step down after she suspended work on an extradition bill that heightened concern mainland China was overextending its reach into the territory.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday buckled under the pressure of sometimes violent protests over the past week and indefinitely shelved the bill in order to "maintain law and order and restore calm as soon as possible."

The bill proposed a legal mechanism to allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents and Chinese or foreign nationals traveling through the city to mainland China. Lam argued that it would prevent criminals from seeking to hide in the financial hub.

But critics believe it would tighten Beijing's grip on the autonomous city, which is governed under a "one country, two systems" policy cemented during the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

While Lam said the bill had "laudable objectives" in combating international criminality, protesters are concerned that an extradition agreement would allow Hong Kongers to be handed over to courts controlled by China's Communist Party in mainland China, where a fair trial is not guaranteed.

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Suspension doesn't go far enough for protesters

Some opponents of the extradition bill said that suspension was not enough.

"The bill's legislative process is only suspended, but not completely withdrawn, which means there is a possibility that the government could restart the legislative process at some point in the future," Ray Chan, a pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong, told DW.

Lam avoided answering questions about whether she would yield to some protesters' demands that she resign, requesting that citizens "give us another chance."

The Beijing-appointed Lam added that she felt "deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society."

Opposition to the extradition bill came from broad sectors of society, including the business community, professionals, teachers, students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups. 

A 35-year-old protester, surnamed Leung, died on Saturday night when he fell from scaffolding as he attempted to hang a political banner, marking the first casualty in the protests.  

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong's constitution, known as the Hong Kong Basic Law, grants the city a high level of autonomy, including executive and legislative powers and an independent judiciary.

While speaking to reporters on Saturday, Lam addressed concerns that the territory's chief executive was being steered by the central committee in Beijing, saying that such an assertion was based on a misunderstanding.

That is a view that does not sit well with Basic Law, and is not in line with the constitutional role of chief executive," said Lam, adding the Hong Kong executive was responsible both to the PRC and Hong Kong.

"The central people's government has confidence in my judgment and they support me," she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the government "expresses support, respect and understanding" for Lam's decision.

Deutsche Welle

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