- Hong Kong’s chief executive apologised after protests against her plan to introduce a bill that would allow China to extradite people from the city.
- “This incident has made me realise that I need to do better,” Carrie Lam said at a Tuesday press conference.
- But she refused to withdraw the bill or step down, effectively ignoring the calls of the roughly two million protesters who marched last Saturday.
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The chief executive of Hong Kong apologised profusely after unprecedented protests over a controversial extradition bill, but refused to withdraw it or step down from her role.
Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers marched against the government’s plan to introduce a bill allowing the Chinese government to extradite people from the city to the mainland for trial.
Hong Kong is a Chinese “special administrative region” (SAR), which that it has a separate legal system and an independent judiciary despite being part of China.
In a Tuesday press conference, Carrie Lam issued a formal apology to the people of Hong Kong, saying that she has “much to learn” from the divisions in society that led to the protests.
“This incident has made me realise that I need to do better,” Lam told reporters in both English and Cantonese Chinese. “For this, I offer my most sincere apology to the people of Hong Kong. I still have much to learn.”
Lam’s government conceded to protesters last Saturday by indefinitely pausing the progress of extradition bill and apologizing to citizens in a statement.
But many remained unsatisfied, with as many as two million demonstrators blocking the streets and calling on the government to withdraw the bill completely.
Though Lam refused to withdraw the bill, she raised the possibility that it may never come to pass.
Legislative talks on the bill’s passage expire in July 2020. If the bill doesn’t reach Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by then, it will lapse, Lam said on Tuesday. “The SAR government will accept that,” she added.
Lam on Tuesday also ignored growing calls for her to step down, saying she would continue working for the Hong Kong people for the next three years. Her current term expires in 2022.
“I think the next three years will be very busy years,” she said, adding that she would continue seeking new opportunities for the city’s economic development and employment for young people, among other domestic concerns.
She did not say whether she would seek reelection when asked. Under Hong Kong law, chief executives are allowed to serve two consecutive terms.
Last week, at the peak of the protests, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as protesters marched and some others attempted to enter the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building.
The Hong Kong police initially described the demonstration as a riot, but rowed back its categorization on Monday.
It said that only the protesters who threw bricks and carried metal poles would be charged under anti-rioting laws, the South China Morning Post reported.
One man died on Saturday after climbing up construction scaffolding to hang a protest banner, and falling onto the street below.
Lam said on Tuesday: “I truly hope that those injured can fully recover soon, and that the rift in society could be quickly mended.
“Hong Kong is our home. It is only by walking together as one community and by staying closely connected that we can bring hope for Hong Kong.”
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