HK Leader Carrie Lam Withdraws Extradition Bill

Carrie Lam as she speaks on withdrawing the extradition bill

Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, will be withdrawing the extradition bill that was proposed last February 2019. Lam’s decision comes five months after the massive protests carried out by the people of Hong Kong. 

A source close to the Hong Kong government said that Lam’s purpose for withdrawing the bill was to move the legislative agenda forward when it reopens in a month’s time in October. The source also stated that the withdrawal came about after Lam met with several city officials weeks ago. 

The withdrawal of the bill marks the first of the five demands of the Hong Kong protestors that the government has granted. The other demands include the resignation of Lam, greater democratic freedoms, the release of those arrested during the protests, and an investigation into police brutality.

The History

Hong Kong and China operate under a “one country, two systems” policy. This means that while Hong Kong – and many other regions – are under China, they can have their own systems, processes, and foreign relations in place. 

Back then, Hong Kong was a colony of the United Kingdom. Its experience as a colony radically shifted the way the country operated. Thus, it was proposed that China should adopt a policy allowing Hong Kong to adopted systems fit for them. The policy was adopted, and the Chinese nation was reunited. 

Fast forward to 2018, a 19-year old man by the name of Chan Tong-kai murdered his 20-year old girlfriend Poon Hui-wing while they were on vacation in Taiwan. Afterwards, he calmly went back to Hong Kong. 

While he was caught the following day, he was only charged with money laundering. He could not be tried in Taiwan for murder as there are no extradition laws currently in place. 

Then, in February 2019, Lam aimed to change that by passing the extradition bill. 

The Extradition Bill

The extradition bill was called the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. If passed, this bill would allow fugitives located in Hong Kong to be extradited to other states and countries. These include Taiwan and Mainland China to name a few.

In theory, the bill had righteous intentions. One need only to look at Tong-kai’s case. 

However, the people were more afraid that the bill might lead to the erosion of Hong Kong’s independence, and the encroachment of the “one country, two systems” policy already in place. 

They were afraid of losing their freedom and that the communist party may use this bill to further their own political agendas. 

The Protests

The protests started getting bigger when Lam “suspended” the bill last June. The people of Hong Kong believed that the suspension just meant that at any time, it could be brought back to the table. 

Instead of appeasing the protestors, the suspension only served as a catalyst to even bigger protests. At one point, the number swelled to two million. As the protests grew, so did the tension with the police. 

The police resorted to beating, hurling tear gas, using water cannons, firing pepper spray, and more. In some cases, they resorted to hurting innocent people, with one woman losing an eye. This is why the inquiry to police brutality is one of the five demands of the protestors. 

Apart from the violence and civil unrest, the protests were also a pain point for Hong Kong’s economy. The year wasn’t particularly great for Hong Kong due to the trade battles between Washington and Beijing. 

With the protests, the year only got worse. Tourism, hotels, and sales of multiple items have dropped drastically. Despite that, the people state that their freedom is more important.  

However, Lam’s recent announcement has already started to turn this around. Several stock indices have already received huge point jumps. 

While the withdrawal of the bill was a victory, the future of Hong Kong is still uncertain. The protestors’ other demands still stand, and it is unclear whether the government will grant them. 

For Lam though, she is stated to leave for Nanning in Guangxi where she will be attending a regional cooperation conference. Since the protests began in earnest last July, this trip will be her first time to leave.