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Hong Kong finally bows to public outcry, withdraws controversial extradition bill

FINALLY, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has announced the full withdrawal of a controversial bill that, if passed, would allow the extradition of fugitives to mainland China.

The bill sparked three months of continuous protest in the special administrative region. It was suspended in June “to maintain law and order”, but this move did not satisfy the pro-democracy protesters who insisted on its complete shelving among four other demands.

Lam said in a video statement released on Wednesday evening, “The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns.”

“We must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions. After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that this discontentment extends far beyond the bill,” she added.

“Let’s replace conflicts with conversations and let’s look for solutions.”

The chief executive did not, however, concede to other requests from the residents, such as having an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality, no longer addressing the protest as riots, the release of those arrested as a result of the protests, and the implementation of universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

She said all investigations will rather be conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), to which two new members have been appointed: a former IPCC judge and former education bureau chief.

The group behind the protest, Civil Human Rights Front, said over 1 million people participated in the protest (nearly one-seventh of the city’s population), which started in June. Hong Kong police’s estimate, however, is 240,000.

Joshua Wong, one of the pro-democracy figures earlier arrested in August, following the latest announcement described it as “too little and too late”.

“Carrie Lam’s response comes after 7 lives sacrificed, more than 1,200 protestors arrested, in which many are mistreated in police station,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

“The intensified police brutality in the previous weeks have left an irreversible scar to the entire HK society. And therefore, at this very moment, when Carrie Lam announced withdrawal, people would not believe it is a ‘sincere’ move.

“We urge the world too to alert this tactic and not to be deceived by HK and Beijing Govt. They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way.

“In short, Carrie Lam’s repeated failure in understanding the situation has made this announcement completely out of touch – She needs to address to ALL Five Demands: STOP PROSECUTION, STOP CALLING US RIOTERS, INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF POLICE and FREE ELECTION!”

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