Hong Kong government to meet amid bill withdrawal rumours

Andrew Cummings
September 4, 2019

Hong Kong's embattled pro-Beijing leader is planning to permanently shelve a loathed extradition bill on Wednesday, local media reported, a potentially major concession to pro-democracy protesters after three months of crippling demonstrations.

Hong Kong police fired beanbag rounds and used pepper spray in late night skirmishes with pro-democracy protesters, broadcaster RTHK said on Wednesday, as unrest that has gripped the Chinese-ruled city for months showed little sign of abating.

The current refugee draft bill, which passed the first reading by the legislature, does not cover citizens of Hong Kong and Macau.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been under intense pressure.

Great snakes two-headed serpent spotted in Bali
Great snakes two-headed serpent spotted in Bali

The formal withdrawal of the bill is one of the major demands of pro-democracy protesters who have demonstrated against the government for nearly three months.

According to a leaked audio recording, Lam said she now has "very limited" room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China.

However, Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index rose rapidly today amid hopes of defusing the crisis.

Lam has come under withering criticism for pushing the extradition bill, which many in Hong Kong see as an example of the city's eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

The prolonged protests have hurt Hong Kong's economy amid a slowdown in the Chinese economy and its trade war with the United States.

The boycott comes as leading Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Ivan Lam and Michael Mo, an organiser of an unauthorised public gathering in July, were arrested by police yesterday morning.

Until now, Lam has rejected all the protester's demands.

On Tuesday she said she had never discussed resignation with Beijing and believed her government could solve the crisis without Beijing's help.

Lam said Tuesday that Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula would be upheld.

While a full withdrawal of the extradition bill early on in the protests may have placated some protesters, the movement has since made many more demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, an amnesty for those arrested and calls for Hong Kongers to be able to directly elect their leaders - a major red line for Beijing.

In Beijing, the mainland office responsible for Hong Kong slammed the escalating violence and warned that China will "not sit idly by" if the situation worsens.

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