On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that she will formally raise the motion of withdrawing the Extradition Bill when the Legislative Council meets again. It is one of the five demands made during the ongoing protests. The other four include: Carrie Lam’s resignation and a right to elect all of their leaders, a formal inquiry into alleged police brutality, the unconditional release of arrested activists and retracting the classification of protestors as “rioters”.
Though the Bill had been suspended, demonstrators were unconvinced that it would not resurface in parliament and continued the demonstrations. Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, had earlier posted on Twitter that a withdrawal of the Bill would be “too little, too late”. The protests are currently into their 14th week, and the withdrawal is unlikely to appease the protestors as many are insisting that the government needs to fully address all five concerns.
Why is this significant?
The Extradition Bill was initially drawn to facilitate the transfer of fugitives to countries where Hong Kong did not have a formal agreement with, which includes China. Opponents argued that the Bill would increase China’s influence over Hong Kong’s legal environment, undermining Hong Kong’s independence under the “one country, two systems” principle.
Since the British returned Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, the autonomy of the Hong Kong government has appeared to decline. Currently, the Legislative Council is made up of a majority of lawmakers who are predisposed towards the Chinese. However, many locals are increasingly identifying themselves ethnically as “Hong Kongers” instead of “Chinese”. The damage inflicted on the city is a reflection of the frustration of those who want Hong Kong to have greater autonomy. Unless the government is able to address the increasingly polarised concerns, the current chaos is likely to persist.