Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on Saturday that the controversial extradition law will be paused until sufficient effective communication and explanation work is done.
Lam’s announcement came one day ahead of another mass march against the bill. She restated the government’s original reason for amending the law, which was to allow the transfer of Chan Tong-kai, who confessed to killing his girlfriend in Taiwan. After disposing of his girlfriend's body, Chan fled back to Hong Kong. Lam said the law would rectify the existing legal loopholes in the Fugitive Offenders Ordnance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.
But in view of the polarised opinions in society and Taiwan’s overt refusal to accept Chan, Lam said the original urgency to pass the bill before the Legislative Council breaks for summer in July does not exist anymore. The government will suspend the legislative amendment exercise and restart public consultation and explanation work.
“I want to stress the government is adopting an open mind ... we have no intention to set a deadline for this work,” Lam said. “I feel deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society, following the relatively calm periods of the past two years, disappointing many people,” she said.
Lam added she still stands by the original intention of amending the law, saying it had been driven by passion and empathy for the city and its people, especially the family of the victim. Hence, she will not consider withdrawing the bill at the moment, otherwise it would give the public the impression that there is no grounds for the bill.
When asked if she would take back her words regarding Wednesday's protest, which she called a "riot", Lam said the police had been responsible for all the measures deployed at the protest, and had also decided on how the clashes should have been termed. She agrees with their decision. The fact that the clashes were termed a riot could see guilty parties facing up to 10 years in prison.
The Chief Executive also said her announcement today was not to appease protesters or individuals who may join the demonstration tomorrow. She said she had needed time to consult her advisors on how to restore calm to the city.
“Our decision has nothing to do with what may happen tomorrow. It is not an intention or a wish to pacify,” Lam said. “In this sort of circumstances, you only have one shot. I have to think it through, and this is my earliest opportunity.”
Organisers were adamant that tomorrow's march will still go ahead, saying that they wanted Lam to step down, they wanted an investigation into police violence and that postponing the law was not good enough, it needed to be scrapped.