It’s official: Hong Kong will formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked 13 weeks of protests.
Embattled chief executive Carrie Lam made the announcement hours after the news leaked to the press and a day after insisting she did not want to quit following the publication (by Reuters) of comments she made to that effect last week to a group of businesspeople.
The bill was suspended in June, but protesters insisted it be formally pulled as part of a list of demands. Lam said Wednesday that the Hong Kong government will withdraw the bill in order to allay public concerns. Her remarks came in a televised address.
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Lam said she supports the work of the Independent Police Complaints Council, however, she said that she will not comply with protesters demands that the charges be dropped against those who have been arrested. That, Lam said, would be antithetical to the rule of law and therefore “not acceptable”. She also did not acquiesce to a truly independent investigation into police actions.
This likely won’t be enough to placate protesters.
“The fact that she’s only formally withdrawing the bill after three months is too little, too late”, Democratic lawmaker Claudia Mo said. “Were you asleep the past three months? You completely ignored the public’s demands. We cannot accept Lam’s political show today”.
Similar reactions popped up across social media. Simply put, protesters want all of their demands met. Had Lam withdrawn the bill in June, she might have been able to keep the genie in the bottle, but it’s too late now.
“Five Demands. Not One Less.”, is the mantra.
The Hang Seng surged on the day, extending gains when the news initially leaked. It was the best day since November for city shares.
But index futures fell sharply following Lam’s address, reflecting the likely “thumbs down” from protesters.
Earlier Wednesday, Markit’s Hong Kong Whole Economy PMI for August printed 40.8, down from 43.8 in July. It was the worst read since February 2009. Output fell to 34.3, the lowest since December 2008.
Ultimately, the protests – which escalated to fire bombs and blue-dyed water cannons last weekend – will likely continue until all demands are met. Or until Xi decides enough is enough. Whichever comes first.