WATCH | Hong Kong leader announces withdrawal of extradition law

2019-09-04 12:54

Hong Kong's embattled leader announced on Wednesday she will permanently shelve a loathed extradition bill that lit the fuse for three months of pro-democracy protests which have plunged the city into crisis.

"The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam said in a video statement released via her office.

In a message that was markedly more conciliatory in tone than her more recent statements, Lam appealed for protesters to abandon violence and to embrace a "dialogue" with the government.

"Let's replace conflicts with conversations and let's look for solutions," she said. 

"We must find ways to address the discontent in society and to look for solutions," she added. 

Withdrawing the bill is one of the five key demands of protesters, who have taken to the streets in their millions in the biggest challenge to China's rule of Hong Kongsince its handover from the British in 1997.

Until now Lam had suspended the bill and called it "dead" but she had not taken the step of formally withdrawing it from the city's parliament, sparking fears her administration might try to reactivate it once protests had died down.

In her message, Lam confirmed the bill would be withdrawn once parliament reopens in October.

She also announced plans to hold a dialogue so people could "share their views and air their grievances" as well as plans to commission academics, advisors and professionals "to independently examine and review society's deep-seated problems and advise the government on finding solutions".

But she also warned protesters that ongoing violence and challenges to Beijing's authority were placing Hong Kong in a "vulnerable and dangerous" position - a reference to increasingly shrill threats from the authoritarian mainland.

"Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law and to restore order and safety in society," she warned. 

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