Carrie Lam says China backed decision to withdraw extradition bill

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, said she had withdrawn the city’s controversial extradition bill with the support of mainland China.

In her first press conference since backing down over the bill, Ms Lam deflected questions about why it had taken so long to kill the legislation that triggered mass protests and a huge pro-democracy movement.

"It is not exactly correct to describe this as a change of mind,” she said, before adding that full withdrawal of the bill was a decision made by her government with Beijing’s backing.

"Throughout the whole process, the Central People’s Government took the position that they understood why we have to do it. They respect my view, and they support me all the way," said Ms Lam, dressed in a cream suit and looking less tense than a televised appearance the day before.

Critics have long accused China of having too much control over Hong Kong, while protesters are calling for greater independence.

Asked specifically whether Hong Kong or China instigated the withdrawal, Ms Lam only said that Beijing supported the move.

A protester is detained by police at Po Lam Station on September 5Credit:
 Anthony Kwan/ Getty 

Protesters were quick to dismiss Ms Lam’s plans to withdraw the bill as too little too late. Since the legislation launched demonstrations.

Dropping the bill was just one of five demands from protesters. The four others are: retraction of the word "riot" to describe rallies, release of all demonstrators, an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

Keith Fong, a high-profile student union pro-democracy leader who has been arrested twice since the movement broke out, said “she [Ms Lam] is just lying to the citizens again”.

Another radical protester, who asked to be identified as Gigi, said: “I will continue to protest, because she only agreed to one demand.”

Rebutting some of the press questions about withdrawing the bill, Ms Lam replied: “There is only one goal, which is to withdraw the bill.” 

The official China Daily said the withdrawal of the bill was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue the violence.

The announcement came after Reuters reports on Friday and Monday revealed that Beijing had thwarted Ms Lam’s earlier proposals to withdraw the bill and that she had said privately that she would resign if she could, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters.

Mr Lam leaves for China’s Guangxi province on Thursday afternoon.

Skirmishes broke out in some districts including the working class Po Lam late on Wednesday after Ms Lam’s announcement, which came after a weekend of some of the most violent protests the city has seen in the past three months.

Police said a suspected petrol bomb was hurled at a luxury property in Kowloon district in the early hours of Thursday and the suspects fled on a motorbike. Local newspaper Apple Daily said the house belonged to Jimmy Lai, the newspaper’s owner, who was in the property at the time. Pro-democracy publishing tycoon Lai is an outspoken critic of Beijing.

The bill was seen as the latest example of what many residents see as ever-tighter control by Beijing, despite the promise of autonomy.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" administration which gave the city of more than 7 million people more freedoms than mainland cities, such as an independent judiciary.

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