Carrie Lam gave a televised statement on Wednesday in which she said she would withdraw the contentious extradition bill.
Withdrawal of the bill, which would allow extradition to mainland China, has remained at the top of the list of protesters’ demands. But the list has grown to include an independent investigation into the police response, amnesty for arrested protesters and direct elections for all lawmakers and the chief executive.
A former Ontario minister is siding with Beijing in the Hong Kong protests
Michael Chan, who held Ontario’s immigration and international-trade portfolios under two Liberal premiers, is echoing China’s assertion that “foreign forces” are manipulating the protests and interfering in Hong Kong affairs.
“If there is no deeply hidden organization in this, or deeply hidden push from the outside, there is no way that such large-scale turmoil would happen in Hong Kong in a few months,” Chan told Beijing-backed news site Chinanews in a piece published earlier this month.
Demonstrations continued in Hong Kong yesterday, with police firing chemical-laced blue water and tear gas at protesters who threw Molotov cocktails. Thousands had taken to the streets in defiance of a police ban.
After almost six months of often violent protests, Hong Kong went to the polls over the weekend for district council elections. Of the 452 seats up for grabs, pro-democracy candidates are predicted to win 333 of them, claiming a clear majority. Pro-government candidates only won 52 seats.
Is this a big deal?
Very. Though the district councils only handle local matters like garbage pickup and bus routes, this election was largely seen as a measure of support either for the anti-government protests or for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. And the choice was clear. Several pro-government heavyweights lost their seats to pro-democracy new-comers. A record turnout of 2.94 million voters showed up to cast ballots – that’s 71.2% of the 4.1 million people who registered to vote. Many attributed the pro-democracy support to young, first-time voters, while others, like pro-government lawmaker Alice Mak, blamed Lam for the loss, saying “pro-government candidates have been unfairly treated. This is a very important reason.”
What happens next?
The first order of business for pro-democrats will be to get Lam to agree to their five demands: the complete cancellation of an extradition bill (which has been done), democratic elections, the release of arrested protesters, an investigation into alleged police use of force, and an agreement not to call the protests riots. More than 5,000 people have been arrested since the protests started in June and at least three people have died.
Canada and allies condemn China’s Hong Kong crackdown as tool for political persecution
The Canadian government doubled down on criticism of China’s Hong Kong crackdown, even as the extradition-case setback for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou further inflamed relations with Beijing.
Canada, in a joint statement with the United States, Britain and Australia, accused China of jeopardizing international co-operation during the COVID-19 pandemic with the new security law it will impose on the former British colony.
They also said the legislation “raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes,” meaning it could be used as a tool to persecute those who question Beijing’s authority.
China says the legislation, which was approved by lawmakers today, will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city.