The Hong Kong administration on Wednesday announced that it had formally withdrawn the extradition bill that triggered months of protests, BBC reported. The controversial legislation, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to China, sparked public outrage earlier this year and led to protests over several months.
The second reading of the legislation began on Wednesday afternoon, following which Secretary for Security John Lee declared that the bill had been withdrawn, according to Hong Kong Free Press. The announcement was met with Democratic Party leader Ted Hui asking Lee if he will resign, to which the secretary said he had nothing to add.
The legislature’s decision, however, is unlikely to quell protests as the administration accepted just one of five demands of the pro-democracy movement. The protestors have demanded that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam step down from her post, an inquiry into the alleged police brutality during the protests, retraction of the word “riots” to describe the demonstrations, amnesty for all those arrested for protesting, and universal suffrage.
“There aren’t any big differences between suspension and withdrawal [of the extradition bill]... It’s too little, too late,” a 27-year-old protester Connie told Reuters, hours before the bill was withdrawn. “There are still other demands the government needs to meet, especially the problem of police brutality.”
Meanwhile, a murder suspect whose case purportedly prompted the administration to bring in the extradition law was released on Wednesday. Chan Tong-kai, a citizen of Hong Kong, spent 19 months in custody on money laundering allegations. He is also wanted for allegedly killing his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan.
After being released, he apologised to the woman’s family and the people of Hong Kong. “I am willing, for my impulsive act and things I did wrong, to surrender myself to Taiwan to face sentencing,” he said, according to South China Morning Post.
The Hong Kong protests had initially been organised to oppose the bill, but have now evolved into a backlash against the city’s government and its political masters in Beijing. In June, Lam had publicly apologised for introducing the extradition bill, which she later claimed was dead.
Protestors remained unmoved with the administration’s assurances on the bill and continued to agitate, taking over the Hong Kong airport, and storming the Parliament. The demonstrators view this as China’s encroachment on the former British colony’s “one country, two systems” rule highlighted during the handover in 1997. Under this system, Hong Kong is allowed a number of freedoms, including an independent judiciary, that would not be available to them if they were to merge with the Chinese mainland.
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