Hong Kong indefinitely suspends unpopular bill after mass protests
The city was hit with the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she will suspend a proposed extradition bill indefinitely.
Ms Lam said on Saturday she took the move in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, which would enable authorities to send some suspects to stand trial in mainland courts.
The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
As criticism mounted – and signs emerged of a growing discomfort among party leaders in Beijing – local media in Hong Kong reported that Ms Lam's administration was planning to announce some sort of step back as it tries to find its way out of the political crisis. Hong Kong, however, is braced for fresh protests on Sunday.
Earlier, the South China Morning Post, Now TV, TVB and RTHK, all cited government sources as saying the plan will postpone, bringing the divisive bill back to the city's parliament for debate – the trigger for Wednesday's clashes.
The SCMP said Ms Lam held an emergency meeting on Friday with her advisers while Chinese officials were also meeting in the nearby city of Shenzhen to map a way out of the impasse. The Hong Kong leader is expected to hold a press conference on Saturday.
Ms Lam, who is appointed by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, has so far refused to abandon the bill despite months of criticism from business and legal bodies – and a record-breaking rally on Sunday, where organisers said more than a million protesters hit the streets.
But on Friday, she found herself facing growing calls from within her own political camp to reverse course and tamp down spiralling public anger – including from hardline pro-Beijing policymakers.
"Shouldn't we cool the citizens down? I think to postpone it for a little bit is not a bad thing. At this moment, the government should self-examine," Ann Chiang, a hardcore pro-Beijing lawmaker, told i-Cable News.
But other hardliners have warned against Ms Lam bending to the protesters.
"If the government caves in to violence and external influences, in the long-run that would also make Hong Kong ungovernable," said pro-Beijing parliament member Regina Ip.
Opposition to the extradition bill has united an unusually wide cross-section of Hong Kong.
On Friday night, thousands of parents gathered in a park in the heart of the city's commercial district to condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against predominantly young protesters on Wednesday.
Y Chan, 50, a mother of two, said she was outraged watching the scenes unfold.
"It's calling for all mothers who had enough already of what happened the other day," she said. "My kids were out there also that day. And although I want them to be safe, want them to be at home, but this is their home. They are defending it."
Updated: June 16, 2019 08:27 AM