Hong Kong, Sep 5 (IANS) Hong Kongs beleaguered leader said on Thursday that Beijing played no role in her surprise decision to withdraw a contentious extradition bill, but that the Chinese authorities had given her “respect” and “support”.
At a press briefing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Beijing had “respected my view”, “supported me all the way” and respected the “one country, two systems” formula as she dealt with the extradition bill issue, which has plunged Hong Kong into an unprecedented political crisis.
On Wednesday, Lam announced through a video statement the formal withdrawal of the bill, together with three other new measures to deal with the crisis, in order to “fully allay public concerns”.
Lam on Thursday added that the withdrawal of the bill did not mean “a change of mind”.
“This formal withdrawal of the bill… doesn’t make a difference in substance because there has been no plan whatsoever… to resume the bill.
“Despite (not) being different in substance, this is going to be a useful measure for creating that basis for a dialog, and yesterday was the best time to do it. There should be no further speculation about why we are doing it,” she added.
For weeks Lam had repeatedly maintained that the bill was already “dead” and refused to initiate an independent inquiry into the police, one of the key demands of protesters. The other demands include the formal withdrawal of the bill.
The four measures Lam unveiled on Wednesday included starting dialogue between top officials and residents, and inviting overseas experts and two local figures to join an existing police complaints council to probe alleged police misconduct.
The unexpected move came more than 11 weeks after the Hong Kong Chief Executive announced the “suspension” of the bill on June 15, and eight weeks after she announced it was “dead” on July 9.
These two announcements failed to mollify anti-government protesters, who feared the bill could be reintroduced later. The proposal would have allowed fugitives in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China to stand trials in courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Over more than two months, the controversy surrounding the bill has escalated into a citywide anti-government protest movement that is showing no signs of relenting, with protesters upping the ante against the police who have come under widespread criticism for their alleged brutality and violations of law in handling the movement.
The movement has also caused Hong Kong to be caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war, with US President Donald Trump warning in mid-August that talks with Beijing would be hampered if it “did something violent in Hong Kong”.