Hong Kong activists, democrats and student representatives have uniformly rejected Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s attempt at a concession on Tuesday, saying she did not go far enough to address the public’s demands.
Activists also blasted Lam for her choice of words, saying that her pronouncement – that the extradition bill was “dead” – was only a rhetorical gesture that added nothing new.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which organised many of the mass anti-extradition law marches, said on Tuesday that the withdrawal of the bill was meant to be a “formal and legal proceeding.”
“We cannot find the word ‘dead’ in any laws in Hong Kong, or any legal proceedings at the Legislative Council,” said CHRF’s vice-convenor Bonnie Leung.
4. ***The crux does not lie in the word play, whether “suspend” or “withdraw”, I think the key is whether she would Promise NOT TO initiate the bill again during her term. She has to make it clear.***
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) July 9, 2019
Political group Demosisto issued a statement asking Lam to “to clearly announce the complete withdrawal of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendment bill, to prevent the possibility that a play of words gives the legislation room to survive.”
Prominent democrats, including the Democratic Party’s leader Wu Chi-wai and Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, also said they were dissatisfied with Lam’s response.
Lam displayed an “irresponsible attitude” and tried to divert attention from real issues, Kwok said: “Those who marched on July 1 and July 7 will not find her response acceptable… why should [Lam] and her top officials escape any repercussions?”
Another key demand of protesters was the creation of an independent, judge-led commission of enquiry – which was also rejected by Lam on Tuesday morning.
CHRF Convenor Jimmy Sham said Lam was applying double standards: on the one hand, she said amnesty for protesters was impossible because of the rule of law, but at the same time she was shielding the police from scrutiny.
“The composition of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) is biased, with no democrats or even progressive pro-establishment camp members… it cannot gain the public’s trust,” Sham said.
The concerns over police abuse were also echoed by Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“The government has announced that it intends to solve the problem through the Independent Police Complaints Council, but this council has been ridiculed as ‘a tiger without teeth’, since it lacks actual powers to investigate,” said director Man-kei Tam.
Tam also called on Lam to clarify her words, demanding an “unequivocal commitment” that the extradition bill will be “withdrawn for good.”
Students reject ‘open dialogue’
Lam reached out to the head of two local universities last week in an attempt to meet with students. However, student leaders would not agree to closed-door meetings, which they said was intended to sow division among their ranks.
Noting their rejection of private meetings, Lam on Tuesday said she would now “readily welcome and agree to do this open dialogue with student representatives.”
“I hope this open dialogue will be conducted without any prerequisites, on my part or on the part of students,” Lam said.
The new proposal was quickly shot down by student leaders, who previously said talks would only be possible if Lam responded to the protesters’ core demands.
Representatives from the student unions of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU) said that they will not deviate from their original position.
Vincent Ng, the external vice-president of the HKUST student union, told RTHK that there was no need for dialogue since Lam had already made clear her stance on the five demands on Tuesday. Lam could not represent the public and students had “lost all hope” in her, Ng said.
CHRF’s Jimmy Sham also agreed with the students’ decision, saying that Lam has used dialogue as a “trap” for her opponents throughout her political career.
“She needs to create a safe, friendly and effective environment for communication to take place,” Sham said. “If she does not promise to stop arrests, there is no way to ensure the angriest young people will be willing to come out and talk.”
“Will she arrest people before the talk? Or talk, then arrest people afterwards?”
Sham added that the CHRF was planning further protests, and will release details at a later date. Meanwhile, members of the public have organised a protest march for Sunday at Shatin.