After weeks of growing anger and escalating protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared a deeply unpopular bill allowing extradition to mainland China to be “dead” Tuesday. Lam said the Hong Kong government had “put a stop to” the legislative push to enshrine the bill in law but stopped short of formally withdrawing the bill from the legislative docket, a linguistic and procedural technicality that aroused suspicion among already deeply suspicious protesters that have flooded the city’s streets over the past month. “I reiterate here, there is no such plan,” Lam said Tuesday in response to concerns the bill would be revived once the protests had dispersed. “The bill is dead.”
Lam’s public comments were her first since protesters occupied the city’s legislature earlier this month on the anniversary of the British handover of the former colony to China. It’s unclear if Lam’s latest attempts to placate protesters on the island will be enough to subdue sweeping demonstrations by the decentralized movement that had already prompted the legislature to suspend daily operation and put the government on the defensive. In addition to calls for the bill to be withdrawn, the protesters have demanded an independent investigation into the police’s use of force during the demonstrations, as well as Lam’s resignation.
“[Lam], had plenty of political support in the territory’s pro-Beijing legislature to pass a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China,” the New York Times notes. “The legislators were set to begin discussing the bill in early June, and intended to vote on it just weeks later.” Protesters see the extradition bill as another sign of Beijing’s growing influence over the island that has coexisted with the mainland under “one country, two systems” policy designed to give Hong Kong wide autonomy after the British relinquished control of the colony in 1997.