Efforts to amend a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong are over, leader Carrie Lam has said.
It was not clear if the legislation was being withdrawn as protesters have demanded.
Hong Kong’s chief executive noted there were “lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council”.
But she said at a news conference: “I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead.”
Millions of people have taken to the streets in the past few weeks to protest against the now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
In the most recent protest on Sunday, tens of thousands of people, chanting “Free Hong Kong” and some carrying British colonial-era flags, marched toward a high-speed railway station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.
At the start of the month, China condemned hundreds of violent demonstrators who stormed and trashed Hong Kong’s parliament for “trampling the rule of law” and “undermining social order”.
Demonstrators were also heavily criticised by Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam for what she called “lawless violent acts” which “seriously impact on the core values of Hong Kong’s rule of law”.
he tumultuous events with the annual peaceful march on July 1, in which about 165,000 people showed up to support the local police.
What Is The Extradition Bill About?
The proposed changes would allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape. The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.
It comes after a 19-year-old Hong Kong man allegedly murdered his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend while they were holidaying in Taiwan together in February last year.
He then fled back to Hong Kong and could not be extradited to Taiwan because no extradition treaty exists between the two countries.
Hong Kong currently limits extraditions to jurisdictions with which it has existing agreements and to others on an individual basis.
China has been excluded from those agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
Why Is It So Controversial?
The proposal has heightened fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1 1997, under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.
This includes the freedom to protest, and an independent judiciary.
Lawyers and rights groups say China’s justice system is marked by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention. China has been angered by Western criticism of the bill.
The proposals also triggered a backlash against Lam, with opposition figure Joshua Wong calling for her to resign.
Business, diplomatic and legal communities fear the Hong Kong’s legal autonomy will be threatened, in addition to the difficulty of guaranteeing a fair trial in China.
Lam, Hong Kong’s self-styled Iron Lady, has created a fresh crisis for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is already grappling with a trade war with Washington, a faltering economy and tension in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Chinese censors blocked news of the Hong Kong protests, wary that any large public rallies could inspire protests on the mainland.
How Has Britain Reacted?
The Foreign Office and Beijing have been involved in a spat following a call from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt not to use the protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for repression”.
China has dismissed Britain’s concerns in the past, saying it no longer had any say in what goes on in Hong Kong.
In recent development, Beijing accused Hunt of a “Cold War mentality” for his stance of “strategic ambiguity” on the possibility of sanctions against China over the crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.
On Sunday, China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, insisted he was not interested in a “diplomatic war” with Britain over its former colony.
But Hunt has said there is “no reason” why Britain cannot continue to have good relations with China, despite an escalation of the dispute over Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, Downing Street sent a strongly worded message to China not to use protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for oppression”.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We are very concerned about the violence we have seen on all sides during the protests.
“We want to see protests conducted in a peaceful manner in accordance with the law.