(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said controversial legislation that would allow extraditions to China was “dead,” stopping short of saying she would withdraw the bill after weeks of protests.
“The bill is dead,” Lam told reporters Tuesday in Hong Kong. “Our work on the extradition bill amendment is a complete failure.”
Still, Lam didn’t say she would formally withdraw the legislation after a historic wave of mass marches that drew hundreds of thousands of people onto the Asian financial center’s streets. Last week, some protesters stormed and ransacked the city’s Legislative Council in an unprecedented escalation.
Her remarks were greeted with skepticism from opposition lawmakers and protesters, who turned out in record numbers seeking a complete withdrawal of the bill even after her June 15 decision to “pause” efforts to pass the legislation. Demonstrators had also sought Lam’s resignation, as the political crisis pushed her approval rating to record lows.
“It’s too little, too late, and too fake,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker who has helped coordinate a series of peaceful marches through the city. “She thinks she can play with words and things can just die down. She really treats people with this parental attitude.”
The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized the biggest protests against the bill, said it would brief reporters at noon outside the city’s government headquarters.
The legislation would let Hong Kong enter one-time deals to transfer criminal suspects to various jurisdictions, including mainland China. The measure fanned worries among the business community and the city’s democracy advocates about the erosion of the “one country, two systems” framework set up before Hong Kong’s return to China.
The battle over the legislation had sent images of unrest around the world, highlighting a source of domestic weakness for Chinese President Xi Jinping amid his trade fight with U.S. President Donald Trump. While Chinese officials affirmed Lam’s claim that the legislation was her idea, they have repeatedly expressed support for her decision to introduce the bill and then suspend it, as well as local authorities’ decision to use force against some protesters.
Lam indicated that she had no plans to resign, asking for an opportunity to win back the public’s trust.
“Stepping down is not an easy thing,” Lam said. “I still have the enthusiasm and responsibility to serve the public. I hope the public can give my team and myself a chance and space to implement a new administration style.”
Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong said that the bill would remain a concern so long as the government refused to withdraw it: “I urge Carrie Lam to immediately withdraw the bill from the LEGCO agenda,” Kwong said.
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