Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said he will push ahead with amendments to laws allowing suspects to be extradited to mainland China.
The pledge came a day after the city’s biggest protest since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“I don’t think it is (an) appropriate decision for us now to pull out of this bill because of the very important objectives that this bill is intended to achieve,” a somber Lam told reporters while flanked by security and justice chiefs.
“While we will continue to do the communication and explanation there is very little merit to be gained to delay the bill. It will just cause more anxiety and divisiveness in society.”
The protests plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, just as months of pro-democracy “Occupy” demonstrations did in 2014, heaping pressure on Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing. Chants echoed through the high-rise city streets on Sunday calling on her to quit. “Extradite yourself, Carrie!,” one placard read.
The proposed law has generated unusually broad opposition, from normally pro-establishment businesspeople and lawyers to students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups who fear further erosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy and the difficulty of ensuring even basic judicial protections in mainland China.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China under a “one country, two systems” formula with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms, including an independent justice system, would be protected.