Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday said she would withdraw the controversial extradition bill. She is also going to set up a committee that will look into the causes of the unrest and suggest a way forward. The announcement was met with mixed reactions, from relief to caution.
Many students said, though, that she had only given in to one demand and they were not convinced that was a good enough result.
“Even if Lam is really withdrawing the extradition bill, I don’t think she will be forgiven by the majority of Hong Kong people … because she has been winking at the police’s inappropriate use of force,” said Jeff Yip, 18. “It’s hard for Hongkongers to trust her now.”
The Form Six student from St Stephen’s College added that Lam’s announcement may have come too late, and her refusal to step down despite public opinion was highly problematic.
Planning to study abroad next year and not return to Hong Kong in the near future, Jeff claimed he’s “politically neutral”, and did not find the local news entirely relevant to himself. His decision to leave the city is, however, not related to the ongoing extradition bill protests.
A government source said that in her speech, which was due to be given after Young Post’s print edition went to press, Lam would emphasise that the removal of the bill was to streamline the legislative agenda, with the Legislative Council set to reopen next month after its summer break.
Lam had earlier suspended the bill, which would have allowed for the extradition of criminals to jurisdictions with which the city lacked a treaty, including the mainland, but critics have not been satisfied.
“I don’t think the protests will stop,” said 13-year-old Monica Lee from Hotung Secondary School. “Hong Kong people will hold the government accountable for everything that they did.” She was referring to allegations that the police force had used excessive force to quell the protests.
Chloe Ho, 13, also from Hotung Secondary School, said Hongkongers would remain angry at the government.
She said Lam was to blame for the city’s chaos. “Because of her being unresponsive, a lot of innocent people were hurt, and Hong Kong was torn apart.”
Last weekend saw some of the fiercest battles between protesters and police, as the force launched a wave of mass arrests on the eve of a banned march, and demonstrators lobbed 100 petrol bombs at targets such as police headquarters and stations, and government buildings.
“It is pointless to claim [that the bill was withdrawn], as the conflicts are no longer focused on the bill but those five demands related to universal suffrage, independent inquiry, etc,” Nester Chik, a 17-year-old student at Sing Yin Secondary School, told Young Post. “Carrie Lam has made such a big mess, and the aftermath brought by her arrogance and unwillingness to hear the general public far outweighs what she can do to seal the cracks, including withdrawing the bill.”
Eunice Yip, 18, a student at Shue Yan University, said withdrawing the bill would definitely calm people down, but she pointed out that the protesters were asking for “five demands, not one less” and they would continue the fight.
Mimi Wong, 16, from HKMA K. S. Lo College, said: “I am glad that the bill has been withdrawn. Now, protesters don’t have to strike and stage non-cooperative movements to interrupt other people’s daily lives.”
Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, student protests continued across the territory. About 80 students staged a silent protest in the playground at Chinese Foundation Secondary School (CFSS) in Siu Sai Wan, despite a warning from a former supervisor of the school.
The protest came after Annie Wu Suk-ching, a Hong Kong-based Chinese businesswoman who is also a former supervisor of CFSS, allegedly forbade students from boycotting classes the day before, causing them to cancel the school strike.
The student concern group at CFSS released a statement on Instagram alleging that Wu had said that any student taking part in a strike would be expelled.
The posting also alleged that Wu said she could use her connections or issue letters of recommendation to make it easier for students to get into university.
Dickson Ho, the principal of the school, spoke to the press at 10.50am. He said if students had parents’ permission to not attend classes, the school would not punish or expel them. “We respect students’ demands and hope students will go to school as usual,” he added. He did not reply to any questions from the press.
At Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College, in Diamond Hill, students started singing Do You Hear the People Sing during the school assembly as the national anthem music was being played.
According to SCMP reporter Su Xinqi, “Voice of Po Tong”, the YouTube channel that first released a video of the song being sung, had been taken down, and so was the original video.
“Voice of Po Tong” appears to be a student broadcast station of the secondary school.