For the third time since withdrawing the extradition bill over the weekend, embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has softened her stance on the extradition bill, though she has neither resigned, nor promised that the hated legislation, which catalyzed the biggest street demonstrations since HK was handed back to China, won’t be reconsidered.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lam again apologized for her handling of the extradition bill, which she said is now “unlikely” to pass, offering a “sincere and solemn” apology to the people of Hong Kong. Lam said the bill wouldn’t be revived until demonstrators’ concerns had been addressed.
“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society,” Lam said.
“For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong.”
Asked by a BBC reporter why she hadn’t resigned, Lam said her decision to withdraw the bill showed she was listening. She said she understood that she needed to “do better.”
Her statement marked the first press conference since some 2 million demonstrators, more than one-quarter of HK’s population, took to the streets for a largely peaceful march on Sunday.
Lam said she would not resign and insisted that the extradition law would be left on the books until it legally expires in just over a year. She said only protesters who had used violence would not need to worry about rioting charges, citing a previous statement from the city’s police chief.
While Lam said her government had “stopped all work” on the extradition bill, Lam refused to confirm that the bill had been truly abandoned. That’s bound to anger demonstrators, who see abandoning the bill as an essential condition. Already, one protest leader has slammed Lam’s statement. Jimmy Sham of Civil Human Rights Front said: “We don’t need to hear her feelings. We want her to respond to our demands…”
For now, at least, it looks like Lam will hang on. She retains the support of Beijing, and the Executive Council Secretariat issued a statement of support in response to Lam’s statement.
The Executive Council Secretariat has issued a statement in support of Chief Exec. Carrie Lam’s latest comments on the extradition bill.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 18, 2019
But the threat of more civil unrest will continue to create problems for Lam’s government, as protests have brought commerce in the Hong Kong to a virtual standstill. There’s also the fear that Beijing might soon find it easier to sacrifice Lam to ensure that the unrest doesn’t spread across the border into Shenzen.