Hong Kong leader set to withdraw controversial immigration bill: Report

Protesters and police are standing off in Hong Kong on a street that runs through the bustling Causeway Bay shopping district. Photo: PTI File.

Hong Kong’s embattled pro-China leader Carrie Lam is set to formally withdraw the much-despised extradition bill on Wednesday (September 4) that sparked the nearly three-month long protest crisis which virtually paralysed the city, according to a media report.

The decision will mean that the Hong Kong government is finally acceding to one of the five demands of the protesters, who have taken to the streets over the past 13 weeks to voice not just their opposition to the legislation, but the overall governance of the city in demonstrations that have become increasingly violent, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Protests broke over the bill which allows local Hong Kong people to be prosecuted in the Chinese mainland.

Besides the demand to withdraw the bill, the pro-democracy protesters are also demanding her resignation and universal franchise of one person one vote with freedom for all the locals to contest the local elections.

Lam had earlier already suspended the bill but critics were not satisfied. If she withdraws the bill it will be a major setback for China, which governs Hong Kong under the one country two systems formula ever since it took control of the former British colony in 1997.

Since June, Hong Kong has been witnessing unprecedented protests by millions of people at times demanding the local government to withdraw the legislation to extradite residents suspected of a crime to mainland for prosecution.

While some of the peaceful demonstrations witnessed at times the participation of over two million people, hard-line pro-democracy activists have been clashing with police almost every day disrupting normal life and flights out of Hong Kong International airport in the last few days the protests by youth and students turned violent.

Earlier reports from Hong Kong said China has overruled Lam’s proposal to withdraw the bill. Lam, 62 has been hinting during the past few days that she even wanted to quit.

On Monday, a recording of a private meeting emerged where she is heard saying: “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit.” But she said on Tuesday she had “never tendered any resignation”, but did not deny the authenticity of the recording.

China for its part continues to assert that it firmly supports Lam in bring the situation under control.