Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have said that Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill is “too little, too late,” with some protesters urging more demonstrations in the coming days.
Lam conceded to one of the five core demands of the protest movement which has roiled Hong Kong since June. But protesters are still demanding a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
On social media, many people reiterated a popular protest slogan: “the five key slogans, we won’t accept anything less.” Some also cited a quote from Winter on Fire, a documentary about the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine: “If we accept the government’s conditions, our friends who have died won’t forgive us.”
Meanwhile, the pro-Beijing camp gave tentative approval to Lam’s decision, with some lawmakers urging Lam to focus on healing social rifts.
Almost 14 weeks of – sometimes violent – protest have evolved into greater calls for democracy, as well as anger over Beijing’s encroachment, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances. With some protesters already gathering Prince Edward on Wednesday night, and Lam set to meet the press on Thursday, HKFP rounds up the reactions from across the political spectrum:
Claudia Mo, lawmaker and convenor of the pro-democracy camp
“It took her three months to officially use the word ‘withdraw.’ This is too little, too late – the die is cast, grave mistakes have been made. Hong Kong’s wounds and scars are still bleeding. This will leave a lasting mark in Hong Kong’s history.”
“As for the new members added to the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Council], this is simply new wine in an old bottle, or old wine in a new bottle. It is totally meaningless. It is common knowledge that the two new members are in Lam’s pocket.”
“We are worried that Lam may use this as a feint… if you continue to protest, then Lam may say there will be good justification to crack down on you.”
Starry Lee, lawmaker and leader of the pro-Beijing DAB party
“The average citizen wants the controversy around the extradition bill to end, stop the violent clashes, and for Hong Kong to get out of these difficult circumstances.”
“Today the chief executive proposed four measures… I believe this is what the general public wants to see, in terms of ideas to get Hong Kong out of a tough spot.”
“On the third point made by the chief executive, about building a platform for dialogue, I believe this is an important step. Since the protests began, society became very polarised: arguments broke out between family members, and between friends. We need a platform to reconcile and mend rifts.”
Regina Ip, Executive Council member and leader of the New People’s Party
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip told HKFP that government officials have been going “backwards and forwards” over the possibility of withdrawing the extradition bill in the past four weeks.
“Well the demands from the protesters — [Executive Council members] have discussed several times in formal and informal meetings,” she said. “[Lam] consulted us on the possibility of a formal withdrawal and I gave her my support.”
Ip said that she believed the withdrawal was a positive step forward and would clear lingering doubts in the minds of some protesters, though she conceded that protests would likely continue.
“At least it demonstrates the goodwill of the government,” she added. Ip rejected the idea that the withdrawal was a reaction to an audio recording leaked to Reuters of Lam saying that she would “quit” if she had a choice.
Joshua Wong, activist from political group Demosisto
5. In short, Carrie Lam's repeated failure in understanding the situation has made this announcement completely out of touch – She needs to address to ALL Five Demands: STOP PROSECUTION, STOP CALLING US RIOTERS, INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF POLICE and FREE ELECTION!
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) September 4, 2019
Ray Chan, lawmaker from People Power
“We must be cautious. Now, Carrie Lam could use the bill’s withdrawal as a pretext to frame protesters as perpetrators of violence. As the bill is withdrawn, the logic goes, then any ongoing protests must be serving ulterior motives, Hong Kong independence or a colour revolution.”
Protest organiser, the Civil Human Rights Front
“Chief Executive Carrie Lam did respond to one of the demands, but if she wants to use this to resolve the crisis, then she has made a serious error in political judgment and will not fix the situation.”
“Since March, the public has organised repeated protests, and from June to August there [were] marches with turnouts in the millions. Self-initiated actions have taken root in civil society. If Carrie Lam withdrew the bill in June, then there [would] not be repeated incidents of police violence and mob attacks. We believe that Lam’s administration tolerated these attacks from the police and triads out of her arrogance, which makes the situation not just about withdrawing the bill.”
Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong
“While the formal withdrawal of this dangerous bill, at long last, is welcome, this announcement cannot change the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have chosen to suppress protests in a grossly unlawful way that has seriously damaged the people’s trust and sense of legitimacy of the government,” he said.
“A thorough and independent investigation into unnecessary and excessive use of force by police at protests is now needed more than ever. We continue to call on all governments to suspend transfers of less-lethal ‘crowd control’ equipment to Hong Kong until a full investigation is carried out and adequate safeguards are put in place.”
“The problems with the Extradition Bill were clear from the start, and the Hong Kong government should have withdrawn it months ago. Instead, it chose to meet protests with tear gas and rubber bullets, inflaming tensions and leading to months of unrest. Today’s announcement is a small step in the right direction, but it will take much more to show the world that the Hong Kong authorities are truly committed to upholding human rights, and send a clear message that people in Hong Kong can still enjoy these rights irrespective of their political beliefs.”
Rights watchdog, the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
The Human Rights Monitor pointed to the flaws of the IPCC, calling it a “toothless tiger.”
“The IPCC lacks three things: the power to investigate, to make definitive judgments and to hand out penalties. It is a toothless tiger, because the complaints are investigated by the internal department, the Complaints Against Police Office. It is their own people investigating their own people, raising doubts about independence and credibility,” the group said in a statement.
“The chief executive appointed her own ally Helen Yu to join the IPCC, which could not improve the independence of the watchdog body, let alone solve its systemic issues… The Hong Kong government should set up an independent commission of inquiry under the law, to investigate police abuse of power and use of unnecessary force, in order to keep in check a disciplinary force that has lost its discipline.”
The Citizens Press Conference, a group of masked protesters
“Despite what Carrie Lam has said earlier today, we want the world to know the bill is not withdrawn. Do not be fooled again.”
“Carrie Lam stated that the proposal for the bill’s withdrawal will be raised in the legislature. However, LegCo will not be in session until October. Even more alarmingly, LegCo is not elected by the Hong Kong people and therefore consists mainly of pro-Beijing legislators.”
“Hongkongers can see right through Carrie Lam’s lies. She wants a way to shift her responsibilities, so that when the proposal is rejected by LegCo in October, she can say it is not her fault, and then legitimately proceed with passing the bill.”
“To our friends around the world, please do not think this government has backed down, because it certainly has not. It is just seeking to create confusion, attempting to distract and escape accountability. Please don’t let them succeed… If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that may have been a quick fix. But applying a band-aid months later onto rotting flesh will simply not cut it.”
US Senator Marco Rubio:
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s long-overdue withdrawal of the extradition bill is a welcome but insufficient step after the government’s violent response to the Hong Kong people’s desire to protect their democratic freedoms. The Chinese Communist Party should uphold its commitments to Hong Kong’s autonomy and stop aggravating the situation with threats of violence.”
Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery.
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