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Hong Kong leader apologises for extradition crisis, vows to stay on

Updated June 19, 2019

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologised on Tuesday for the political unrest that has shaken Hong Kong, but the pro-Beijing chief executive refused to bow to demands for her resignation. — AFP/File
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologised on Tuesday for the political unrest that has shaken Hong Kong, but the pro-Beijing chief executive refused to bow to demands for her resignation. — AFP/File

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologised on Tuesday for the political unrest that has shaken Hong Kong, but the pro-Beijing chief executive refused to bow to demands for her resignation.

The semi-autonomous territory has been plunged into its biggest crisis in decades, with millions of people taking to the streets to demand the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Lam suspended the bill on Saturday after two massive rallies that saw isolated bouts of violence between the police and some protesters.

But that failed to quell public anger, and an even bigger rally on Sunday drew over two million people, organisers said — more than a quarter of the population.

“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society,” Lam told a press conference.

“For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong.” Activists have demanded the bill be withdrawn fully, for Lam to step down, and for police to be investigated for using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.

They have also asked for all charges to be dropped against anyone detained during the protests.

But Lam gave no indication she was prepared to step down, saying instead she wanted to “continue to work very hard... to meet the aspirations of the Hong Kong people”.

Lam tacitly suggested, however, that the extradition bill was unlikely to be revived given the public sentiment. “I will not proceed again with this legislative exercise if these fears and anxieties could not be adequately addressed,” she said.

“If the bill... (does) not make the legislative council by July next year, it will expire... and the government will accept that reality.”

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019