Tue, Jun 18, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Demonstrators press HK’s Lam to quit

DEAD IN THE WATER?The extradition bill has effectively been withdrawn, but Beijing would not let Carrie Lam step down even if she wanted to, a senior official said

AP, HONG KONG

Protesters stand outside the office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam yesterday during a demonstration demanding that Hong Kong’s leaders step down and withdraw a controversial extradition bill.

Photo: Reuters

Demonstrators in Hong Kong yesterday gathered outside the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), demanding that she step down for the crisis over a highly unpopular extradition bill that has tested the durability of China’s promises to respect the former British colony’s quasi-autonomy.

The mostly young protesters blocked a street near the territory’s waterfront as they stood outside Lam’s office chanting calls for her to cancel the proposed legislation.

As night fell, protest leaders debated their next steps. Some wanted to set a deadline for a meeting with Lam. Others decided to head home.

Nearly 2 million Hong Kong residents, young and old, on Sunday joined a march that lasted late into the night to express their frustrations with Lam and the extradition bill, backed by Beijing. Many stayed on afterward.

Protesters blocked some downtown roads well into yesterday morning, but gradually yielded to police requests to reopen roads, moving to areas near government headquarters.

The protest revived after Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), a prominent activist leader, rallied the crowd later in the day after his release from prison.

The activists have rejected apologies from Lam for her handling of the legislation, which would allow suspects to be sent to nations that Hong Kong does not currently have an extradition treaty with, including China, for trial.

She announced on Saturday that work on the bill would be suspended after large protests last week.

“We are very angry that Carrie Lam has not responded to the demands of all the protesters, but now is the time to talk about strategy, and talk about strategy is about how to make the whole struggle into a long-term struggle and not a day struggle, so if Carrie Lam does not respond to the demands by the protesters, people will come back and the struggle will continue,” former legislator Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) said yesterday.

Wong, who was imprisoned for his role in the 2014 “Umbrella movement,” was released from prison after serving half of a two-month sentence on a contempt charge, and soon joined the fray.

“After the end of the Umbrella movement we claimed we would be back. Finally five years later we did it,” Wong said.

“It’s lucky that Beijing and Carrie Lam transformed a whole generation of youngsters from normal citizens to dissidents. That’s the price that Beijing must pay,” Wong said.

However, a senior official in the territory’s government who is close to Lam yesterday told Reuters that Beijing would not let her step down even if she wanted to, adding that the proposed extradition law has effectively been withdrawn.

Despite the anger against Lam, she was unlikely to go, said the official, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“It’s not going to happen,” said the official, who has been involved in meetings on the political crisis.

“She’s appointed by the central government, so for her to step down requires a very high level of considered discussion and deliberation at the mainland level,” the official said.

Lam was voted in by an electoral college of Beijing-approved delegates, after Beijing rejected demands for universal suffrage in the territory.

Her resignation now, even if Beijing thought it was time, and the search for a new leader, would likely rekindle the debate about democracy in the territory.

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