Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday withdrew an extradition bill that has sparked months of protests and violence.
The extradition bill, first proposed by Lam’s government in April, permitted the government of the city to send accused criminals to mainland China following their conviction in Hong Kong. Since the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a “one country, two systems” framework that permits the city to maintain its current government and legal systems for 50 years despite being nominally a territory of the People’s Republic of China. The bill was seen as a dramatic departure from this system, signaling what many protesters felt was the result of intrusive interference in the semi-autonomous city’s politics by Beijing. The presentation of the bill launched months of protests and escalating violence. Lam suspended the bill in June, but did not formally withdraw it until this week.
In a televised statement by Lam reported on by the Associated Press, Lam said that the decision to withdraw the bill was “her government’s own initiative” and not dictated by Beijing, but that the central government “understands, respects and supports” her decision. The withdrawal of the extradition bill was one of the five demands made by protesters. The other demands—universal suffrage in elections, an independent commission to investigate police violence, the release of those arrested in the protests with criminal charges, and a halt to describing the protests as riots—were dismissed by Lam, describing them as “unacceptable.” Al Jezeera reported that clashes between police and the protesters have continued despite the bill’s withdrawal, with protesters vowing to continue until all five of their demands are met.