Lam apologizes for anxiety and disputes, vows to better serve HK

HONG KONG Reporters try to get close to pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong after he spoke to protesters near the legislative council building on Monday. — AP

Lam issued her "most honest apology" to the people of Hong Kong for her inadequacies in handling the extradition bill saga, but did not address the two main demands of the protesters - the withdrawal of the proposals from the Legislative Council and to step down.

In fact, in 2003, the district council election came after controversies over the legislation of the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 and 500,000 people protested in mid-2003 against the then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Lam, appearing both contrite and defiant, used much of the same language as a previous press conference on Saturday when she announced a postponement of the bill.

Standing before a replica of the Goddess of Democracy that rises above a pile of mourning wreaths, the demonstrators, including foreigners joining in support, chanted slogans demanding the full withdrawal of the bill, Lam's resignation, the release of detained protesters, and called for the Hong Kong government to revoke its labelling of Wednesday's protests as a riot. Demonstrators said it drew a million people - a figure beaten on Sunday with further protests attracting two million.

Lam issued an apology on Sunday night through a written government statement that many people said lacked sincerity.

Hong Kong government had proposed amendment to an ordinance in February.

Protesters have demanded that the bill be fully withdrawn, and for Lam to step down and investigate police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters last week.

"Hong Kong is our home", she said.

But it did not satisfy the many people in Hong Kong who are anxious that the law would fatally damage the city's economy and society, by allowing both residents and visitors to be sent for trial in China's opaque, Communist party-controlled courts. Some protesters staged "resistance" efforts in a nearby subway station.

A key protest leader who is a Christian, Joshua Wong, says China's extradition plan has blown up in its face, reigniting the protest movement against dictatorial rule from China.

Large numbers of protesters rallied on Sunday despite an announcement by Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam that the controversial extradition bill will be suspended indefinitely.

The city's formidable business community was also spooked about the law damaging Hong Kong's reputation as a safe business hub.

On Monday, the city's police commissioner sought to reassure the public that only those who resorted to violence or other serious offenses would be prosecuted. He added that only five people had been arrested on riot-related offences and that most protesters were "peaceful". She said any complaints over police behaviour should be referred to a government agency in charge of handling such problems.

The vast majority of Hong Kong residents fled persecution, political chaos or poverty and starvation on the Chinese mainland.

Millions of people have taken to the streets of the semi-autonomous territory to protest the bill, which they fear would lead to critics of Beijing being targeted if passed. "Carrie Lam just copied the model from Beijing and applied it in Hong Kong", he said.

So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong's extradition agreements because of concerns over the judicial independence of its courts and its human rights record. They value stability and but also cherish freedoms of dissent and legal protections not allowed for people on the mainland.

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