Hong Kong leader apologises as nearly 2mn rally against extradition

A day after suspending a controversial bill which would have sent fugitives to mainland China, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologised to people for the confusion and protests it triggered, local reports say.

By the time Lam’s apology came, nearly two million protesters had started marching through the city’s streets for the second straight Sunday demanding the withdrawal of the controversial bill and resignation of the chief executive.

They also wanted the immediate release of those who have been arrested and all charges against protesters dropped.

The government was also asked to withdraw the ‘riot’ remark on Wednesday’s peaceful protest and act tough against the police officials who ordered to fire bullets at protesters.

80s Momentum, a protest group, said Lam should apologise in person, adding they will lend her a chair if she comes to the protest venue.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun refused to accept Lam’s “insincere” apology.

While announcing the suspension of the proposed bill on Saturday, Lam did not say when it will be reintroduced. At a presser, she defended the bill and said its suspension does not mean the legislation will be withdrawn.

The bill is significant as it aims to prevent Hong Kong from being turned into a haven for fugitives. However, this message was not effectively communicated to people.

The government will now gather their diverse views on the bill and try to clearly explain to them whom it will target and whom it will spare, she said.

People fear the bill, besides targeting fugitives, will also allow the extradition of dissidents including politicians, lawyers, writers, artists and rights activists to China where conviction rates are high.

This, according to them, will be the final blow to the ‘one country, two systems’ approach Hong Kongers were promised during the 1997 handover of the territory to China by Britain.

Being aware of the potential dangers inherent in the proposed bill, the Civil Human Rights Front, which has been organising the recent protests, said late on Saturday that the bill has to be withdrawn and not just suspended. 

Some two million people took part in the march on Sunday from Victoria Park to government offices located in the central district wearing black and carrying white flowers to show respect for a man who fell to his death on Saturday while trying to spread a banner against the extradition law.