Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam faced mounting pressure Friday to abandon a deeply unpopular plan to allow extraditions to China as key allies urged a rethink following unprecedented political unrest.
The international finance hub was rocked Wednesday by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Opposition to the extradition bill has united an unusually wide cross section of Hong Kong against the proposal and sparked huge rallies.
Lam who is a pro-Beijing leader has so far refused to meet protesters’ demands to withdraw or scrap the bill. However, Lam found herself facing calls Friday from within her own political camp to reverse course.
Prominent pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien openly called on Lam to postpone the bill. “She would gain points instead of losing points,” Tien told reporters.
“Nothing is ever too late. New situations arise that would provide the basis for any leader to change their position. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Tien added.
Tien’s comments came as Lam’s own advisor said pushing ahead with fast-tracking the bill through the city’s legislature had now become ‘impossible’.
“Personally I can see that it is impossible to discuss (the bill) when there is so much conflict on all sides. It is very difficult,” Bernard Chan told ‘RTHK’ radio. “At the very least we should not escalate the antagonism,” he added, although he stopped short of saying whether the bill should be scrapped.
Executive council member Ronny Tong has also suggested having a consultation on the bill before progressing, according to broadcaster ‘RTHK’.
The comments are the first indication that supporters of the extradition law are now having second thoughts following a growing public backlash.
Protest organisers said more than one million people came out Sunday for the largest protest the business hub has seen in decades.
Leading democratic figures said only the complete withdrawal of the bill would stop future protests and calm public anger. “We can’t trust the pro-establishment lawmakers,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Leung. “We need Carrie Lam’s response on whether she will withdraw the bill.”