Hong Kong leader says extradition bill ‘dead’, but critics not satisfied

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The extradition bill that sparked Hong Kong’s biggest crisis in decades is dead, the territory’s leader said on Tuesday, adding that the government’s work on the legislation had been a “total failure”, but critics accused her of playing with words.

The bill, which would allow people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, sparked huge and at times violent street protests and plunged the former British colony into turmoil.

In mid-June, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam responded to protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets by suspending the bill, but demonstrations that shut government offices and brought parts of the financial centre to a standstill continued.

Her latest attempt to restore order did not satisfy many protesters who stood by demands that she completely withdraw the bill and accused her of playing word games.

“There are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council,” Lam told reporters on Tuesday.

“So, I reiterate here, there is no such plan, the bill is dead.”

The bill triggered outrage across broad sections of Hong Kong society amid concerns it would threaten the much-cherished rule of law that underpins the city’s international financial status.

Lawyers and rights groups say China’s justice system is marked by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention, claims that Beijing denies.

University students who have been out in force during the protests rebuffed Lam’s comments.

“What we want is to completely withdraw the bill. She is playing word games,” said Chan Wai Lam William, general officer of the Student Union of Chinese University of Hong Kong.