Hong Kong extradition Bill: How it came to be declared 'dead'

Hong Kong extradition Bill: How it came to be declared 'dead'

Hong Kong protests West Kowloon train station (8)
Hong Kong protesters outside West Kowloon train station on Jul 7, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared a controversial extradition Bill as “dead” on Tuesday (Jul 9), following weeks of mass protests that erupted in the city.

During a press conference, a week after protesters stormed the Legislative Council, Lam described the work to amend the Bill as a “total failure”.

However, she had again stopped short of protester demands to withdraw the proposed law, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Here is a recap of the events that unfolded over the course of the year in the special administrative region since the Bill was introduced:

FEBRUARY: EXTRADITION BILL LAUNCHED

The Hong Kong government first launched the proposals in February, putting forward sweeping changes that would simplify case-by-case extraditions of criminal suspects to countries beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong has existing extradition treaties.

It explicitly allows extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China - including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau - for the first time, closing what Hong Kong government officials have repeatedly described as a "loophole" that they claim has allowed the city to become a haven for criminals from the mainland.

Hong Kong's leader would start and finally approve an extradition following a request from a foreign jurisdiction but only after court hearings, including any possible appeals. However, the bill removes Legislative Council oversight of extradition arrangements.

MARCH: GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO MAKE BILL MORE PALATABLE

In March, the Hong Kong government agreed to remove nine economic crimes from a total of 46 on the proposed extradition Bill, after pressure from the local business sector. Economic crimes are often used by China to pursue critics.

MAY: GROWING CRITICISM LEAD TO MORE CONCESSIONS

Faced with growing criticism domestically and abroad, authorities introduced a series of tweaks, including:

  • Handing over only those wanted for crimes which carry at least a seven-year jail sentence
  • Considering only extradition requests from other countries which are made through their top authority
  • Ensuring that defendants have an open trial, access to lawyers, be free from forced confession, enjoy the right to appeal, and be given time to prepare a proper defence

JUN 6: HONG KONG LAWYERS PROTEST

More than 3,000 Hong Kong lawyers held a rare protest march and made their way from the city's highest Court of Final Appeal to the Central Government Offices. 

"I want to do what I can to ensure the Hong Kong government is forced to backtrack ... I am stunned they have come up with this plan," said one mainland Chinese lawyer based in Hong Kong.

JUN 9: "OPPOSE CHINA EXTRADITION"

It began with crowds of peaceful marchers stretching out for miles - families with flag-waving toddlers, grandparents in wheelchairs, expats and business types, musicians banging drums, artists and activists.

For more than six hours, dense crowds snaked their way through the city chanting "Scrap the evil law!" and "Oppose China extradition!" in what was believed to be the largest protest since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China.

Protesters rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong
Protesters gesture as they chant "no extradition" as they rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on Jun 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

The march passed without incident.

But shortly after midnight, violence flared as police moved to clear protesters who had vowed to stay overnight outside parliament.

JUN 10: LAM STANDS FIRM

Moments after the protest permit expired at midnight, police moved in as demonstrators hurled bottles and used metal barricades against riot police shields.

Officers used pepper spray hoses to push the crowds back as they shouted: "We have a right to protest!"

Skirmishes continued overnight as police officers chased down protesters in the nearby streets, and angry masked youths were seen having running battles with riot police through the night.

Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said she had no plans to scrap the proposal, calling the Bill a “very important piece of legislation that will help to uphold justice”.

Lam initially noted that the Bill would resume its second reading on Jun 12.

At the same time, China backed the Hong Kong government and voiced opposition to “outside interference” following the protest.

READ: Hong Kong leader says extradition bill will not be scrapped

JUN 11: FRESH PROTESTS ERUPT BEFORE DEBATE

Thousands of protesters braved thunderstorms to continue voicing their disapproval of the controversial Bill. As tensions mounted, security tightened around the legislature building, with riot police deployed in some areas.

There was also an online petition calling for 50,000 people to surround the legislature building overnight into Wednesday.

JUN 12: SECOND READING OF BILL POSTPONED

Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the city's legislature building, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against the government's plans for the Bill.

Demonstrators surrounded government offices and brought traffic to a standstill as they called on authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed plan. Police also used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the crowds.

The rows of riot police were far outnumbered by protesters, with the demonstration continuing to swell. 

Later that day, the Hong Kong government postponed the second reading the extradition Bill. Lam also made her first comments since the violence broke out, calling the clashes “organised riots" and saying that she stood by the Bill.

As of 10pm on Wednesday, Hong Kong Hospital Authority said 72 people had been hospitalised.

READ: Explainer: Why proposed changes to Hong Kong's extradition law are fueling protests

JUN 13: CASUALTY NUMBERS RISE

Five days into the protest, both Hong Kong riot police and protesters braced themselves for further clashes across the city's financial district. Just a handful of protesters remained early in the day as the demonstration slowly broke up.

Hong Kong authorities were also forced to shut government offices in the financial district for the rest of the week.

Police added that 11 people had been arrested, while 22 officers were injured. They had also fired about 150 tear gas canisters.

As of 5pm on Thursday, there were 81 casualties as a result of the protests, the Hospital Authority said.

With fresh arrests and more casualties, Hong Kong lawmakers again postponed the meeting to discuss the extradition Bill. 

Hong Kong was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday
Tear gas fired by riot police during a Hong Kong protest against the extradition Bill. (Photo: AFP/ISAAC LAWRENCE)

JUN 14: MOUNTING PRESSURE FROM ALLIES

Hong Kong's embattled leader has faced increasing pressure to scrap the Bill, including calls from within her own political camp to reverse course and dampen public anger.

Lam has refused to meet protesters' demands, but the sentiments from within her own party could mean supporters are now having second thoughts about the Bill.

Protest organisers have announced plans for another mass rally on Sunday. So far, Beijing has voiced its support for Hong Kong's response.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said the protests were "an act that undermines Hong Kong's stability".

"What happened in the Admiralty area was not a peaceful rally, but a riot organised by a group," he told a regular briefing.

"We support the Hong Kong government's dealing with the situation in accordance with the law."

Protesters in Hong Kong are demanding that a postponed extradition bill be scrapped entirely
Protesters in Hong Kong are demanding that a postponed extradition bill be scrapped entirely AFP/VIVEK PRAKASH

JUN 15: HONG KONG BACKS DOWN ON BILL

Lam suspended the Bill following days of protests and clashes between police and demonstrators. 

The chief executive said the city's legislature would stop all work on the Bill and the next steps will be decided after consultations with various parties.

JUN 16: LAM ISSUES FIRST APOLOGY AS PROTESTERS FLOOD STREETS

Lam issued her first apology to Hong Kong residents as hundreds of thousands of black-clad protesters reportedly took to the streets to call for her resignation over her handling of the Bill.

A government spokesman said that poor government work over the Bill had led to “substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief”.

Lam “apologised to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public", the statement said.

JUN 18: CARRIE LAM GIVES SECOND APOLOGY

Lam held a press conference to apologise for a second time, during which she said she had heard the people “loud and clear” on the extradition Bill.

She gave no indication she was prepared to step down, saying instead she wanted to "continue to work very hard ... to meet the aspirations of the Hong Kong people".

She also refused to say whether the Bill would be withdrawn, only that it would not be re-introduced during her time in office if public fears persist.

JUN 20: PROTESTERS BLOCKADED HONG KONG POLICE HQ

Thousands of protesters blockaded the Hong Kong police headquarters throughout Jun 20 and into the small hours of the next morning.

Hong Kong police slammed them, calling the demonstration "illegal and irrational" and vowed to pursue the ringleaders.

JUL 1: PROTESTERS STORM LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ON HANDOVER ANNIVERSARY

Hundreds of protesters stormed the parliament building on the anniversary of the Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China.

The protesters smashed through reinforced windows and steel shutters. They also occupied the Legislative Council building for about three hours, during which they destroyed portraits and defaced walls and furniture with graffiti.

Earlier in the day, protesters occupied roads in the financial hub after blocking them with metal barriers and wooden planks. Police fired pepper spray to disperse some of them, who were mainly students.

Separately, a flag-raising ceremony attended by Lam was held to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule.

JUL 7: PROTESTERS, POLICE CLASH IN MONG KOK; 6 ARRESTED

Riot police and a small group of protesters clashed in Mong Kok on Jul 7 after thousands of demonstrators marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon train station to raise awareness among mainland Chinese tourists about the political crisis.

The clashes reportedly took place after a tense 20-minute standoff.

READ: Protests pile pressure on Hong Kong's already-stressed young people, say Experts

Hong Kong police stand off with protesters at Mong Kok
Police prepare to clear a street during clashes between demonstrators and police in the Mong Kok district in Kowloon on Jul 7, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Vivek Prakash) 

Police then arrested six people, including one who was nabbed at a public procession in the afternoon.

Five were caught in a later incident.

JUL 9: LAM DECLARES EXTRADITION BILL “DEAD”

Lam said on Jul 9 that the proposed extradition law is “dead” but did not immediately withdraw the Bill.

"There are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity or worries (about) whether the government will restart the process with the Legislative Council. So I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The Bill is dead," she said.

The chief executive described the work on the Bill as a "complete failure", and urged people to give the government space to resolve the issue.

READ: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam says extradition Bill is 'dead' 

Source: CNA/na(mn)

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