Hong Kong Legislative Council building in Admiralty, Hong Kong Island Photo: Asia Times

Pro-establishment groups in Hong Kong have dropped their opposition to a “full withdrawal” of the suspended extradition bill, while 32 former senior officials have appealed to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to urgently respond to protesters’ demands.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest political party in the legislature, said in a TVB interview on Sunday she believed their supporters would understand if the government withdraws the bill.

“If the government thinks a withdrawal [of the bill] could heal the marked cleavage between the general public and the government, I believe our supporters would show their understanding,” Lee said.

But she admitted that Lam’s administration had paid a huge price for mishandling the whole issue and it would be very difficult for them to govern the city in the future.

Protesters in Hong Kong have been pushing the chief executive hard to respond to their demands, including a full retraction of the extradition bill and an independent investigation into “abusive” policing. But so far, there has been no word from the government other than apologies to the public.

Other pro-establishment lawmakers, such as Michael Tien Puk-sun and Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan, also said they would not object if the government decided to withdraw the extradition bill.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer and prominent scholar at the Chinese University Hong Kong, said Lam’s administration should follow public opinion given that the DAB and other supporters do not object, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Withdraw bill immediately

Meanwhile, 32 former top government officials, lawmakers and politicians appealed the Hong Kong government to withdraw the extradition bill immediately.

They sent a joint letter to Carrie Lam, saying “during this period, the government’s refusal to withdraw the Bill is fueling suspicion and instability.  Society is unable to resume normality. At this moment, with the complete loss of trust, your initial intent is no longer relevant; further, there have been precedents where unpopular bills were withdrawn.”

The letter was signed by former chief secretary Anson Chan, former secretary for constitutional affairs Michael Sze Cho-cheung, former secretary for security Peter Lai Hing-ling, veteran politician Allen Lee Pen-fei, former lawmakers such as Martin Lee Chu-ming, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and former member of the government’s central policy unit Joseph Lian Yi-zheng.

The group also urged the chief executive and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung to retract the “riot” label on clashes on June 12 outside the Legislative Council and called for setting up an independent probe into whether police used excessive force.

Brainstorming

Meanwhile, Carrie Lam has not appeared in public since her apology at a press briefing last Tuesday. Top officials have showed up to apologize in person or via their online blogs, and promising to adopt a sincere and humble attitude, to accept criticism and improve their service for the public.

It was understood that the chief executive invited all top officials to a five-hour “brainstorming” session at Government House on Saturday, Hong Kong Economic Times reported.

During the meeting, officials admitted that amending the extradition bill gave rise to serious conflicts in society, which now affects their governance.

They focused on how to proceed in the future and how to collect citizens’ comments in an effective way. But they did not discuss anything relating to the bill being withdrawn or the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry into the government’s handling of the bill amendment.

Meanwhile, a pro-government newspaper also quoted unnamed sources from Beijing as saying that the central government had sent people to the city to collect intelligence from all walks of life. It said they wanted to find out the cause of the massive protests, the scale of the coming July 1 rally and what the next steps of young people in Hong Kong would be.

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