No backdown, says defiant Lam

Top News | Phoenix Un 11 Jun 2019

No concessions. That was the message from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as she refused to ease back from a controversial amendment to the fugitive law despite Sunday's mass protest.

But she did say there would be regular reports about implementation after the amendment went into force.

She was talking after a stunning 1.03 million protesters took to the streets on Sunday, according to organizer Civil Human Rights Front, which called for the amendment bill to be withdrawn.

But a second reading of the bill resumes in the legislature tomorrow.

Protesters had also called for Lam along with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to step down.

Lam's response to that was no one was going - a message she delivered flanked by Cheng and Lee during a press conference at government headquarters yesterday.

And an official statement issued at 11pm on Sunday after the front had announced an end to the march was reiterated. That stated rights and freedoms are fully protected but the second reading of the bill would go on as scheduled. "Of course, we were very sad to watch the TV after midnight that there was some violence undertaken by a few hundred protesters," Lam added in referring to clashes between protesters and police outside the Legislative Council building and on nearby roads.

She also said she understood the worries and anxieties about the legislation, and so there would be more explanations about the bill.

And additional human rights safeguards announced by Lee on May 30 would have legal binding power despite not being written into the new law earlier.

Lam said she also agreed with a suggestion from some pro-establishment parties after the protest that her administration provide regular reports to the legislature about the implementation of the amendment "in terms of jurisdictions involved, the nature of cases and whether the human rights and procedural safeguards are being fully implemented."

The last area of work would be pushing on to sign extradition agreements with jurisdictions covered by the amendment, especially with the mainland, Taiwan and Macau.

Lam also thanked people for expressing their views no matter whether they were in support or against the bill, adding that it was indisputable that there were many citizens in the protest march.

"But there are also more than 300 social groups supporting our works, and many citizens showed their support in many other ways," she added. "So when there are controversial issues, especially those involving the mainland, society tends to be polarized."

As chief executive, Lam said, "I will need to achieve balance between different opinions."

On ruling out any chances of withdrawing the bill or postponing the resumption of the second reading, Lam said: "There is very little merit to be gained in delaying the bill. It will just cause more anxiety and divisiveness in society."

During her election campaign in 2017, Lam promised she would resign if mainstream public opinion no longer allowed her to function as fully as chief executive, and she was asked yesterday whether she would keep her promise.

Her response: "What I promised is to make Hong Kong a society of the rule of law, civilization, harmony and tolerance. In every aspect of our society, including economic growth and especially in terms of innovation technology, our efforts in the past two years have been acknowledged by many."

Legislative president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said he condemned protesters who tried to attack the Legislative Council building. He also showed pictures of weapons found in the building's protest zone, including crude spears, chainsaws and hammers.

He also said officials had discussed coordinating with police in maintaining order in the protest zone tomorrow and had also sent letters to legislators to say no dangerous objects could be taken into the chamber.

And "of course nobody should bring ladders," Leung added, referring to some pan-democrats taking ladders into the chamber last Thursday.

He also said he had approved 153 of 258 amendments filed by 22 legislators for the fugitive law.

That was a record number of amendments filed, Leung noted.

Leung also said he would meet with political parties this morning on how the council meeting should discuss the bill.

But the legislature needed to finish four more bills besides the fugitive law amendment before the summer break in mid-July, he noted, "so there is a problem of time."

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