Hong Kong withdraws extradition bill that sparked protests

CNA file

CNA file

Though they had faltered on Tuesday, major United States indices climbed about 1 per cent or more after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam formally withdrew a Bill that aimed to allow extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.

Hong Kong stocks jumped, led by property developers, after news reports said Lam will formally withdraw the extradition bill that's sparked months of protests.

Even Lam's pro-Beijing allies in Hong Kong have said it was time to withdraw the bill.

Protests against the bill, which if passed would have seen suspected criminals sent to mainland China to be tried, are now in their fourteenth week.

However, despite suspending the bill in June following protests by more than one million people, daily demonstrations still continued in increasing magnitude with protestors demanding that the bill be fully withdrawn.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways said its chairman, John Slosar, resigned Wednesday, less than a month after its CEO, Rupert Hogg, stepped down following pressure by Beijing over participation by some of the carrier's employees in protests.

The withdrawal, a key demand of protesters, came after months of unrest as the government repeatedly refused to back down-igniting sometimes violent clashes with police and resulting in the arrests of more than 1,000 protesters.

Rallies over the weekend saw some of the worst violence of the crisis, with protesters throwing bricks and petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and baton charges. Their demands have grown from the scrapping of a bill allowing extradition to mainland China to include universal suffrage, an investigation into police brutality and the resignation of the city's chief executive.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said the protesters are adamant that all their demands, including calls for direct elections, are fulfilled.

"We have people from all parts of society behind us", a Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) student said on Monday.

In her pre-recorded message Ms Lam also announced other measures that appeared to be created to soothe unrest.

Notwithstanding the Chinese government's unsupported claims that "foreign forces" have been behind the protests, governments have been tepid in demonstrating support for Hong Kong's rights movement.

In addition to withdrawing the bill, Lam announced that two senior officials would join an existing inquiry into the conduct of police during the protests. "We hope people won't forget that", said Ms Chan, speaking for the protest movement and not giving her full name.

The extradition bill therefore fuelled widespread anger amid fears of creeping influence from Beijing.

In Beijing, the mainland office responsible for Hong Kong slammed the escalating violence and warned that China will "not sit idly by" if the situation worsens.

"The focus since the beginning of July has completely shifted now to the confrontation between police and rioters, and how the public perceives it", Tien said.

Lam described the withdrawal as a step to initiate dialogue. "My major impression is that they are adamant about the five demands being met before their fight would stop".

Lam said that Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula would be upheld. Many people told the global media on Sunday that this was their first time attending a protest.

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