Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has admitted a complete failure in her administration’s handling of the extradition bill amendment, saying “the bill is dead”.
The city chief met with media prior to the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday morning, a week after her public appearance at a early-hours press briefing, alongside the police commissioner, to condemn the protesters who stormed the Legislative Council.
Lam said she felt the need to clarify the status of the bill after realising that people are still concerned that it might be resurrected and resubmitted to the Legislative Council in future.
However, Lam did not say she was “withdrawing” the bill, which tens of thousands of Hong Kong people demanded over the past month, adding that even if the government said “withdrawal” today, the bill could be “retabled” three months later.
Lam announced the suspension of the bill on June 15, after a massive protest in the city and clashes between protesters and police, with the demonstrators calling for “full withdrawal”. More protests were on-going and some turned violent. Four Hong Kong people reportedly committed suicide because of the bill proposal as they said they felt hopeless because Lam turned a deaf ear to their demands.
The city chief said she was saddened by the political crisis the bill saga has caused, and she also admitted that her administration did not have a good grasp of the public’s views since the launch of the bill amendment proposal.
Asked by reporters whether she would resign as chief executive over the affair, Lam said she would not and she intends to continue to serve the people, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
Meanwhile, Lam said she and her administration will listen and meet different stakeholders, including youngsters.
She said she is willing to have an open dialogue with student representatives from the universities.
Last week, the student unions of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Chinese University of Hong Kong turned down Lam’s meeting invitation, as she requested the meeting to be held in a closed-door format.
Tens of thousands joined the ongoing protests, calling for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the anti-extradition protests, especially focusing on the excessive use of police force on protesters, and amnesty for all protesters
But Lam rejected the call. She said the Independent Police Complaints Council would be launching an investigation and protesters, police, media and onlookers, could provide information.
Lam also dismissed the call to drop all charges against the arrested protesters and those who had been charged, saying granting an amnesty at this stage goes against the rule of law and against the principles of Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
On Tuesday, the former Chief Justice, Andrew Li Kwok-nang, wrote a newspaper column saying that a probe was needed to heal the rift in society.
Li said there is no doubt that the government made a serious error of political judgment.
He also said there is no practical difference between suspending the bill and the immediate withdrawal. To assist in the process of reconciliation, he suggested the government should now withdraw the bill.
The retired judge called for a panel headed by a judge to look into the saga, which is “a much more effective mechanism for ascertaining the truth”.
He also said he backed Lam to continue as chief executive, but asked her and her administration to speak up more for Hongkongers.