Hong Kong’s Lam due to address media after bill withdrawal

Hong Kong’s Lam due to address media after bill withdrawal

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is due to address the media on Thursday, a day after she withdrew a controversial extradition bill that has triggered mass protests and plunged the Chinese territory into its worst political crisis in decades.

Lam, in a pre-recorded televised message, on Wednesday formally withdrew the bill, acceding to one of the democracy protesters’ five demands. 

The mainland’s official China Daily said on Thursday that the withdrawal of the bill was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue violence.

But protesters have said the withdrawal is too little, too late and are standing firm on their other demands including universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police actions during the protests that started in June. More than 1,100 people have been arrested as a result of the protests.

“She has by no means indicated that she will appease or bow to any of the other demands,” Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke said from Hong Kong.

“This has morphed into a wider movement. It’s not just about the extradition bill any more. This has become very much a movement and a push for greater freedom of speech and democracy.”

End of extradition bill fails to appease Hong Kong protesters (2:27)

Skirmishes overnight

Beijing-backed Lam is due to speak to the media at 11:15am (03:15 GMT) before she departs for a trip to China’s Guangxi province on Thursday afternoon.

Skirmishes broke out in some districts late on Wednesday after Lam’s announcement, which came after a weekend of some of the most violent protests the city has seen over the past three months.

Police said a suspected petrol bomb was hurled at a luxury property in Kowloon district in the early hours of Thursday and the suspects fled on a motorbike. Local newspaper Apple Daily said the house belonged to Jimmy Lai, who was in the property at the time. The publishing tycoon Lai is an outspoken critic of Beijing.

The city has been roiled by some of the worst violence in decades, with protesters burning barricades and throwing petrol bombs and police retaliating with water cannon, tear gas and batons.

The bill, which would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, was seen as the latest example of what many residents see as ever-tighter control by the mainland, despite the promise of autonomy.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework that gave the city of more than seven million people more freedoms than those on the mainland, including an independent judiciary.

China denies meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs and accuses Western countries of inciting the protests.

The Hong Kong government took out a full-page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review on Thursday saying it is “determined to achieve a peaceful, rational and reasonable resolution” and is resolutely committed to “One Country, Two Systems”.

It ends the advertisement by saying: “We will no doubt bounce back. We always do”.

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