The government of Hong Kong on Wednesday formally withdrew an unpopular extradition bill which sparked months of anti-government protests.
"I now formally announce the withdrawal of the bill," Secretary for Security John Lee announced during a legislative meeting.
The bill was initially proposed in February by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in order to resolve a legal case involving a suspected murderer who couldn't be extradited to Taiwan to face trial. The proposal sparked immediate fears that anyone could be plucked off the street and sent to mainland China to face Communist Party-controlled courts. Shortly after they began, the protests turned into a general anti-government movement, which has picked up in violence in recent weeks.
Now, after assurances from Ms Lam in September that the bill would be scrapped in the next meeting of the state’s legislative council, it has been formally withdrawn by Secretary for Security John Lee.
In July, with the city crippled by a summer of disruption, Ms Lam said the government’s work on the legislation had been a “total failure” and declared the controversial bill “dead” – stopping short of a full withdrawal. -Independent
And while the bill has been formally withdrawn, the move is unlikely to slow down the weekly demonstrations and deter further conflict. Since the protests began, the movement's goals have shifted from the extradition bill to securing independence from China and Lam's resignation.
"There aren’t any big differences between suspension and withdrawal of the extradition bill... It’s too little, too late," said 27-year-old protesters "Connie," hours before the bill was withdrawn. "There are still other demands the government needs to meet, especially the problem of police brutality."
As we noted earlier, the FT reported that Beijing is drawing up plans to replace Lam with an "interim" executive. However, the report has been strenuously denied by the government. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that the government still "firmly backs" Lam and that the report is a"political rumor with ulterior motives."
Either way, we doubt Lam's ouster would do much to change protesters' minds either.