HK chief announces four-action plan to end unrest

By Wang Cong in Hong Kong Published: 2019/9/4 19:15:44

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday announced a four-action plan, including formal withdrawal of an extradition bill, and responded to "five demands" made by protesters, in what she called a starting point for moving the city forward from months of unrest that has "shocked and saddened" Hong Kong residents.

 "Many would say that we need a common basis to start such a dialogue, and that this has to start with the Chief Executive. I now present four actions to initiate this dialogue," Lam said in a televised speech.

As part of the four-action plan, the government will formally withdraw the extradition bill to "fully allay public concerns," Lam said, noting a motion will be made to the Hong Kong Legislative Council when it resumes. 

Initially proposed in February to fix loopholes in Hong Kong's extradition laws after a murder case in Taiwan involving two Hong Kong residents, the bill has been interpreted by radical elements to spur anger among Hong Kong residents toward the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the central government in pursuit of ill-intentioned political goals.

The decision to formally pull back the bill marks a significant step by the SAR government to show its sincerity in resolving tensions, and its commitment to end the unrest. However, the move should not be seen as a concession by Lam that could lead to a slippery slope, and radical forces should not have any illusion of winning ground on matters related to the "one country, two system" principle that governs Hong Kong and China's sovereignty, officials and experts said.

As part of her four-action plan, Lam also appointed former director of education Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping and lawyer Paul Lam Ting-kwok to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), which will review police practices in response to the protest since June. 

Additionally, Lam said she and other senior government officials will visit communities and invite community leaders to the government for dialogue. "After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that discontentment extends far beyond the Bill. It covers political, economic and social issues… We can discuss all these issues in our new dialogue platform," she said.

In the relatively brief remarks, Lam also responded to the "five demands" made by protesters, which she said she has already done in "various occasions" before. She said setting up an independent commission is unnecessary because matters relating to police actions are best handled by the IPCC. 

On the protesters call to stop characterizing the protests as "riots," Lam said there is no legal effect on such a description and that all prosecution will be based on evidence collected, relevant laws and Prosecution Code. She declined to meet demand of releasing all those arrested during the protests, saying this is not in line with the rule of law.

"Irrespective of our grievances, or the depth of discontentment towards the Government," she said, "Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law and to restore order and safety in society. As such, the Government has to strictly enforce the law against all violent and illegal acts."

She also said though implementing universal suffrage is an ultimate goal laid down in the framework of the Basic Law, but discussions need to be within the legal framework and in an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding. 

The central government has expressed support for Lam's decision to suspend the bill to restore calm. "We support, respect and understand this decision," a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said on June 15.

Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the office, again expressed the central government's full support for the SAR government to take "all necessary measures" to stop the violence and riots, which he said has started to show clear signs of terrorism and threatened the city's future and the country's sovereignty. 

In a positive response to news of the latest move by the chief executive, stocks in Hong Kong rallied on Wednesday, with the Hang Seng Index gaining more than 995 points, or 3.9 percent at market close. After news of Lam's plan broke in the afternoon, the Hang Seng gained more than 650 points.


Newspaper headline: HK chief announces ‘four actions’ to end unrest


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