HONG KONG: The Hong Kong government formally withdrew a controversial extradition Bill on Wednesday (Oct 23) following months of violent protests in the city.
The Bill received a second reading in the Hong Kong Legislative Council on Wednesday, about a month after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced plans to withdraw the Bill formally.
The Bill had come before the Legislative Council last Wednesday, but heckling lawmakers forced the suspension of parliament.
Had the Bill been passed into law, it would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to Taiwan, Macau and mainland China. It was a move seen by protesters as an attempt by Beijing to tighten its grip on the city, which has an independent judiciary.
MURDER SUSPECT RELEASED
The Bill’s formal withdrawal came on the same day a man whose actions inadvertently triggered the protests was released from prison.
Hong Konger Chan Tong-kai is accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan in February last year. He fled back to his home city, where Taiwanese police have been unable to apprehend him because of the lack of an extradition agreement.
It led to the Hong Kong government proposing the extradition Bill, sparking off months of demonstrations.
Chan was jailed in Hong Kong after he was convicted of money laundering, but the Department of Justice said it did not have “sufficient evidence” against the 20-year-old on the charge of homicide in Taiwan.
Last Friday, he wrote a letter to Mrs Lam, offering to surrender himself to Taiwan upon his release.
Taiwan authorities argued that his extradition without a legal assistance framework would damage the self-ruled island's sovereignty.
MONTHS OF VIOLENCE
Sparked by the introduction of the extradition Bill, the rallies have since morphed into wider calls against what protesters see as erosions of the freedoms the city enjoys under the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in its handover from Britain in 1997.
More than 2,000 people have been arrested, while hundreds have been injured in the clashes throughout the city.
Protesters are demanding universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, amnesty for those charged, an end to labelling protesters as rioters and the formal withdrawal of the extradition Bill.
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