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2019-06-15 21:14:32 BdST

Hong Kong to ‘pause’ divisive extradition bill: reports

Hong Kong’s embattled government looks set to press pause on a deeply unpopular extradition bill that has provoked unprecedented clashes between police and protesters, multiple local media outlets reported Saturday.

The city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam has faced mounting calls to
abandon the controversial legislation, including from her own political
allies and advisers.

The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence
since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of
protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

As criticism mounted — and signs emerged of a growing discomfort among
party leaders in Beijing — local media in Hong Kong reported that Lam’s
administration was planning to announce some sort of climbdown as it tries to
find its way out of the political crisis.

The South China Morning Post, Now TV, TVB and RTHK all cited government
sources as saying the plan was to postpone bringing the divisive bill back to
the city’s parliament for debate — the trigger for Wednesday’s clashes.

The SCMP said Lam held an emergency meeting on Friday night with her
advisers while Chinese officials were also meeting in the nearby city of
Shenzhen to map a way out of the impasse.

Lam, who is appointed by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, has
so far refused to abandon the bill despite months of criticism from business
and legal bodies — and a record breaking rally on Sunday where organisers
said more than one million protesters hit the streets.

But on Friday she found herself facing growing calls from within her own
political camp to reverse course and tamp down spiralling public anger —
including from hardline pro-Beijing lawmakers.

“Shouldn’t (we) cool the citizens down? I think to postpone it for a
little bit is not a bad thing. At this moment, the government should self-
examine,” Ann Chiang, a hardcore pro-Beijing lawmaker, told i-Cable News.

But other hardliners have warned against Lam bending to the protesters.

“If the government caves in to violence and external influences, in the
long run that would also make Hong Kong ungovernable,” pro-Beijing lawmaker
Regina Ip told reporters.

Opposition to the extradition bill has united an unusually wide cross
section of Hong Kong.

On Friday night, thousands of parents gathered in a park in the heart of
the city’s commercial district to condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear
gas against predominantly young protesters on Wednesday.

Y. Chan, a 50-year-old mother of two, said she was outraged watching the
scenes unfold.

“It’s calling for all mothers who had enough already of what happened the
other day,” she told AFP. “My kids were out there also that day. And although
I want them to be safe, want them to be at home, but this is their home. They
are defending it.”

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