Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced yesterday that her government would "formally withdraw the (extradition) bill to fully allay public concerns". That proposed extradition bill has triggered 14-weeks of consecutive protests across the former British colony. But it remains to be seen whether or not the formal withdrawal of the bill - one of five-demands of protesters, would bring calm back to the strategic and dynamic Southeast Asian financial hub. Or is it "too little too late" as local activist Joshua Wong has described the government's new revelation.
Proposed by Lam's government in April that included extradition of Hong Kongers to Mainland China for criminal prosecution, the extradition bill was quickly opposed by protesters, who took to the streets demanding a withdrawal.
Hong Kong has extradition treaties with a number of countries including the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), but the vehement opposition to the proposed bill showcased the distrust Hong Kongers hold of the judicial system on Mainland China, even though China regained control of the port city in 1997 which it rules under a "one country two systems" policy. Hong Kong enjoys more autonomy than anywhere on Mainland China.
At the height of protests against the extradition bill, a large cross section of residents totaling over 1.7 million people turned out to demonstrate against the measure. Protests have targeted the streets, the legislature, the International Airport, train stations and other key places. Sadly, during recent weeks of demonstrations, episodes of violence have marred the expressions of Hong Kongers. Also, gross acts of police brutality were also reported.
Thus, after 14-weeks of demonstrations, Lam's announcement yesterday was clearly meant to calm matters in Hong Kong. But as activist Joshua Wong has said, Lam's action is "too little too late." And according to the BBC-News, which quoted another activist, Nathan Law, the protest campaign will continue in Hong Kong. "The movement has evolved into a movement that fights for autonomy, democracy and also preserving our way of life and restricting the excessive power of the police," the BBC-News quoted Law.
A protester called the late formal withdrawal of the bill as applying a "band-aid to rotting flesh". Another protest leader said the withdrawal of the extradition bill was "not the end of the movement but a turning point, and protesters will not stop until all demands are met." Along with the withdrawal of the bill, protesters have also demanded Lam's resignation; an independent inquiry into police brutality; the release and non-prosecution of those arrested during demonstrations; and for the government to retract characterization of the protests as riots.
Some protest leaders have said a planned rally slated for this coming weekend at the Hong Kong airport will go on. They have reiterated their intent that all their demands be met. A masked protest leader explained: "The withdrawal cannot compensate for our blood and tears over the past three months. It (the withdrawal) was a debt from three-months-ago, but the government and police have added more debts over the past two-months. They are bankrupt on character and ethics."
Lam's open-air microphone acceptance of responsibility for wrecking "unforgivable havoc" upon Hong Kong should carry much weight among the people of Hong Kong, protesters included. To this end, protesters and the local government should press on with an immediate commission to look into present and ongoing grievances of the people, especially the young people, of Hong Kong and do all within their powers to bring Hong Kong back on line as a functioning dynamic city.