LIVE UPDATES: Hong Kong Leader Suspends Extradition Bill, Opponents Want Full Withdrawal

By Epoch Times Staff

Update: June 15, 7:50 EDT

In a press conference held in response to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to postpone the extradition bill, pan-democratic group Civil Human Rights Front condemned Lam for refusing to completely withdraw the bill and apologize for the police use of force in dispersing protesters, which led to more than 80 people sustaining injuries.

The group, which organized last week’s march that brought more than one million Hong Kongers to the streets to oppose the bill, said they would continue to call for the bill’s full withdrawal and urged all citizens to join another march it has planned for tomorrow.

It also condemned the Hong Kong government’s labeling of protesters as “rioters” and called for the release of all 11 protesters who have been arrested.

It would also continue calling for the “three suspensions”: boycotting classes, not going to work, and shutting down businesses, until the bill is withdrawn.

Update: June 15, 4:26 a.m. EDT

Hong Kong chief executive has suspended the proposed extradition law indefinitely.

In a press conference on June 15, Carrie Lam told reporters that the decision was made with consideration of the public sentiment against the bill.

Lam said that it was a necessary measure to restore order in the former British colony as a “responsible government.”

“We have to maintain law and order on the one hand and evaluate the situation for the greatest interest of Hong Kong including restoring calmness in society as soon as possible and avoiding any more injuries to law enforcement officers and citizens,” Lam said during the conference.

“After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise and restart our communication with all sectors of society,” Lam continued, adding that they will halt the bill and have no intention to set a deadline to bring it back.

The proposed bill had seen a week-long stand-off between Hong Kong masses and the government, with nearly 1.03 million people taking to the streets to oppose the bill. Some pro-Beijing officials in recent days also advised her to back down so as to avoid undermining their chances in the 2020 election.

Asked during a reporter Q&A after the press conference whether Beijing had any influence over her decision to suspend the bill, Lam said in Cantonese that it was her decision, made with the support of Beijing.

hong kong protest over extradition bill
A police officer fire teargas during a protest in Hong Kong, on June 12, 2019. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

On June 12, at least 81 people, including several reporters, were injured as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd at the Legislative Council (LegCo) in protest of the bill. In light of the public protests, the planned debates were cancelled for three days in a row.

When a reporter pointedly asked Lam why she would not step down after such public protests and police violence, Lam responded: “I have been a public servant for nearly 40 years. I take it as my pride, and I still have a lot of work for Hong Kong that I hope to do.”

She also clarified that legislative debates on the bill would not return to the full LegCo body for a second reading.

The Civil Human Rights Front, a pro-democracy group, had scheduled for a mass protest on Sunday to stop the extradition bill. The group had not indicated that it will call off the original plan.

“The uncertain suspension of passing the law was made possible only by the blood shed by Hong Kong protesters,” the group said in the latest statement, with the capitalized words: “We want withdrawal only.” They urged people from different political circles to stand together on the issue and stop the extradition bill completely.

Update: June 14, 11:58 p.m. EDT

Local media report that Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam will meet with pro-Beijing legislators on June 15 noon to possibly discuss postponing the controversial extradition bill.

Earlier, an insider close to the Hong Kong government told The Epoch Times that Lam was likely to make a decision to suspend the bill on Saturday.

The Hong Kong leader is likely to hold a press conference after announcing the government’s latest decision over the controversial bill to pro-Beijing lawmakers, according to the Hong Kong news broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

This follows multiple officials expressing their support to delay the bill.

Pro-Beijing legislator Michael Tien said that the use of force by police on June 12 to disperse protesters who opposed the bill could bring unfavorable consequences to his party in the upcoming elections in 2020.

“I don’t understand why [Lam] is still so adamant about it … How do we govern if the pro-establishment camp loses our majority?” Tien told reporters at the Legislative Council on June 14, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Update: June 14, 11:25 p.m. EDT

The NGO German Chamber of Commerce has expressed strong concerns over the extradition bill over its far-reaching implications for international business confidence in the city.

The organization said in a statement that it “fully respects and supports” the right of the Hong Kong civilians to exercise their right of assembly in protest of the bill, and condemned the “violence and escalatory behaviour” that occurred under the government’s watch.

“In order to achieve progress on the subject matter of the controversial Extradition Bill, all sides need to exercise restraint and engage in a constructive dialogue,” the statement read.

“The GCC Board of Directors believes that, going forward, the Government of Hong Kong should invite legal, business and other bodies to engage in a comprehensive and in-depth consultation process on the proposed Extradition Bill, to ensure that due consideration is given to all interest groups, that the legislation is consistent with Hong Kong’s robust legal system and rule of law standards, and that the long-term interests and reputation of Hong Kong are protected,” they said.

Update: June 14, 12:17 p.m. EDT

After originally canceling two planned legislative debates on the contentious extradition bill, the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) has since changed their status to “to be decided,”  according to a June 14 LegCo press release.

After scores of protesters showed up in front of the LegCo building on the first day of scheduled debates on June 12—and continued to occupy the grounds, the pro-Beijing head of LegCo Andrew Leung had decided to cancel originally slated meetings on June 12, 13, and 14.

Despite record turnout of protesters, Leung had announced a schedule for debates on every weekday until June 20, essentially fast-tracking the legislative process. He had promised to bring the bill to a vote on June 20. It is unclear whether he still intends to go by that schedule.

For June 17 and 18 next week, the LegCo initially announced in an earlier press release that they were also canceled. But around 9 p.m. local time, the status was changed to pending.

As per the latest schedule, a LegCo meeting on the issue is set to take place on Wednesday, June 19, at 11 a.m. local time in Hong Kong, followed by a continuation of the meeting on Thursday, June 20, at 9 a.m.

Update: June 14, 6:15 a.m. EDT

The police’s use of force against protesters in Hong Kong has come under fire from the organizer of one of the rallies.

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the organizer of the June 9 march in Hong Kong, has issued a statement on its Facebook page questioning the police’s use of force against protesters on June 12.

It said the type of rubber bullets used by the police were seemingly intended to cause injury rather than dispersing protesters. It was the first time since the city was handed over to China in 1997 that the police had fired rubber bullets at protesters.

CHRF also asked why police had apparently targeted protesters’ heads rather than their lower bodies, in contradiction to instructions given to police ahead of the protests. It added that this violated protocols with regard to the use of firearms.

CHRF claimed that police fired tear gas at protesters outside Hong Kong’s Civic Tower on June 12, despite a notice from police that they would not oppose protesters’ plans. CHRF say that none of the protesters at the time tried to charge at the police.

CHRF is calling for an independent committee to be set up to investigate the police’s actions on June 12.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong said that doctors working at government-run hospitals had received a notice from the Hong Kong government requiring them to report how many days off they have had, according to RTHK.

Kwong said he was told that doctors are afraid that the notice will become evidence for the Hong Kong government to punish doctors who have participated in any activities supporting the protest.

Additionally, Kwong said that he had learned that some people had chosen not to go to the hospital after they inhaled tear gas.

The lawmaker said their fear might stem from police having secretly sent out plain-clothed officers to hospitals, something Kwong said violated patients’ privacy.

Pierre Chan, a lawmaker who represents the medical community and four doctors’ groups, issued a petition calling on the police not to arrest protesters inside hospitals, according to RTHK.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo admitted that some arrests in connection to the June 12 protest were made at hospitals.

The petition stated that such police actions might discourage injured people from being treated at hospitals.

Protesters pour water on to a teargas canister during a protest in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Update: June 14, 4:05 a.m. EDT

27 Former HK Officials Call On Leader Carrie Lam to Withdraw Extradition Bill

The pressure is mounting for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to scrap the controversial extradition bill, also known as the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill 2019.

In a joint statement, 27 former Hong Kong officials issued an “urgent appeal” to Lam to withdraw the bill, expressing how they were saddened by the current Hong Kong government’s insistence on “ramming” the law through the Legislative Council (LegCo), according to Hong Kong media RTHK.

Some of the better-known officials who signed the statement were Peter Lai, Secretary for Security from 1995 to 1998; Andrew Wong Wang-fat, president of LegCo from 1995 to 1997; and Anson Chan, Chief Secretary from 1997 to 2001.

Chan took part in the million-strong protest march on June 9, drawing record crowds to the streets of Hong Kong.

Speaking to reporters during the protest, Chan said that the bill would not only affect basic rights and freedom in Hong Kong, but “also affect business confidence in Hong Kong, especially how it would be a blow to Hong Kong’s image as a top financial center.”

Anson Chan takes part in a protest in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019. (Lin Yi/The Epoch Times)

“A deeply divided society, serious concerns of the international community—are these the sacrifices to be made to satisfy the will of the Chief Executive? What great public interest is supposed to be served by the hurried passage of this bill? Where will this escalation of police force to suppress protests lead Hong Kong?” Chan said in a statement.

The statement questioned how Lam could remain “unmoved” following the scenes of young people getting injured during altercations with the police on June 12 when tens of thousands protested outside government buildings in Admiralty.

“This is our future generations to be cherished. How can anyone with a heart not be pained to see the treatment they received?” the statement added.

It also called on Lam to “yield to the public opinion” and scrap the bill.

Update: June 14, 2:22 a.m. EDT

Planned ‘Three Suspensions Rally’ on June 17 Gaining Moment After Federation of Trade Unions Voices Support

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), an independent union representing over 190,000 members in sectors such as construction, retail, education, social welfare, and property management, has announced that it will support a planned rally organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) for next Monday, June 17.

The announcement was made during a press conference on June 14 around 11 a.m. local time.

Yesterday, CHRF announced that it planned to hold a “three suspensions” rally, encouraging people to stop work, stop classes, and stop the markets on June 17. Additionally, it also planned to hold a large-scale march on the coming Sunday, June 16.

According to Hong Kong public radio broadcaster RTHK, HKCTU called on both employers and employees to join the rally.

It stated that workers could tell their employees that they are going to “fulfil their duties as citizens of this society” as a reason for joining the rally.

The federation called on employers to grant time off to their workers without penalizing them for their absence.

“This time, it’s a historical situation between the Hong Kong society that align the employers and employees to act together to fight against this extradition law. So I strongly appeal to all the employers, do not give any hard time or disadvantages to any employees who participate in this,” urged Carol Ng, chairman of HKCTU, according to RTHK.

Ng added that it was time for grown-ups to support the many youngsters who have already been taking to the streets en masse in the protest of the government’s extradition bill.

From The Epoch Times