Hong Kong’s increasingly authoritarian government has backed down over a controversial new extradition law after mass protests by angry citizens. It’s a major blow to unpopular pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam, and a sign that the city’s people are losing patience with the steady erosion of the democracy they were promised when China took over the former British colony.
Lam introduced the new law after a gruesome murder committed by a Hong Kong citizen on vacation in Taiwan. The killer, 19-year-old Chan Tong-kai, strangled his pregnant girlfriend and hid her body in a suitcase before escaping to Hong Kong. Because there’s no extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Taiwan, he couldn’t be sent back to face murder charges; he’s now in jail for using his victim’s credit cards.
The problem is, Lam used the case as an excuse to write a law that would allow extraditions to a number of countries – including China. Hong Kong citizens don’t want to be thrown on the mercy of the Chinese legal system, which routinely sentences people to spend years in slave labor camps or be shot in the back of the head. Hundreds of thousands of them took to the streets to protest.
At first, Lam tried to suppress the protests using force – but it didn’t work. The demonstrations just kept growing, with an estimated one million people joining the largest one. With the world’s media now taking an interest, she’s clearly decided it’s not worth taking this chance to knock another brick out of Hong Kong’s fragile independence. On Saturday, Lam announced that the law was being shelved indefinitely and apologized for her heavy-handed response.
Hong Kong residents weren’t impressed at her apology, though – “too little, too late” is what many said – and Sunday saw an even larger protest. Now the people want the law to be withdrawn, not just shelved, and they’re also demanding an inquiry into police violence against the protests.
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