Hong Kong extradition bill officially killed

The move is however unlikely to end the months of unrest

Photo: EPA Hong Kong`s Secretary for Security John Lee announces the formal withdraw of extradition bill at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday formally withdrew planned extradition legislation that sparked numerous protests across the semi-autonomous city in the last five months. The extradition bill would have allowed defendants charged with serious crimes to be sent for trial abroad, including to Communist Party-controlled courts in China.

It was thus seen as the latest move by Beijing to erode those freedoms.

In another effort to put an and to the pro-democracy unrest, the Financial Times reported Wednesday Beijing is drawing up a plan to remove Hong Kong's beleaguered Chief Executive Carrie Lam as the pro-Beijing leader has faced sustained criticism from protesters. So far, the Chinese central government has given its support to her and the Hong Kong police, calling the demonstrators "rioters" and condemning the violence.

But according to the FT report, which quoted unnamed figures briefed on the deliberations, Beijing is drawing up a plan to replace her with an interim chief executive. However, sources told the newspaper that the plan would be dependent on the situation in the city first stabilising so that the central government is not seen as giving in to violence.

Nevertheless, Beijing rejected the report as "a political rumour with ulterior motives".

"The central government firmly supports Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam... to put an end to violence and chaos and restore order as soon as possible," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing.

Lam's office, in the meantime, said it would not comment on speculation.

True or not, however, both moves are unlikely to end the months of unrest as they meet just two of five demands of pro-democracy demonstrators. The rallying cry of the protesters, who have trashed public buildings in the Chinese-ruled city, set street fires and pelted police with petrol bombs, has been insisting on “five demands, not one less”, meaning the withdrawal of the bill makes no difference.

Moreover, Lam's resignation is not one of the protesters' five central demands, who are instead calling for measures including an investigation into police brutality, universal suffrage and the release without charge of arrested protesters.

"I don't think replacing Carrie Lam could solve the problem completely," 18-year-old student Joyce Ho told AFP.

"If the government can respond to the five demands, I believe Hong Kongers would stop (the protests)," she added.

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