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Carrie Lam's withdrawal of extradition bill is 'far too little, far too late'

Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 19:05 (IST)

The withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked angry protests across Hong Kong for weeks on end is "far too little, far too late", a Christian human rights campaigner has said.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam made the announcement on Wednesday after protests, often met with a heavyhanded police response, brought parts of the city and the airport to a standstill.

The full withdrawal of the extradition bill - which would have seen some suspected criminals extradited to mainland China for trial - was one of the key demands of protesters furious at what they see as an unacceptable infringement on Hong Kong's democracy and judicial independence.

However, protesters have vowed to keep up their opposition until all of their demands are met, one of which is an independent investigation into police brutality.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the founder of Hong Kong Watch, said that while Lam's announcement to withdraw the extradition bill was "welcome", it was "far too little, far too late".

"If she had done this three, even two, maybe even one month ago, people might have accepted it," he said on Twitter.

"First, with police brutality and arbitrary arrests at a severe and shocking level, arguably cynics might say she has turned Hong Kong into a police state so no need for [the] extradition bill anyway anymore."

He backed calls for an inquiry into the police's handling of the protests.

"Second, if she sincerely wants to resolve the crisis she must announce a full, immediate, independent inquiry into police brutality with enforcement powers for dismissal and prosecution of those officers who used disproportionate force and carried out acts of brutal violence," he said.

He added that the protests had laid bare wider issues than the extradition bill and that democratic reform was needed.

"And she must now recognise the problem isn't just the bill, it's the system itself, so should announce package of democratic political reforms," he said.

He called for full universal suffrage for all seats in the 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council election and in the Chief Executive election in 2022.

"If she does this, there's a chance that Hong Kong can heal and recover," he said.

"If she doesn't, with the incredible courage and determination of amazing Hong Kongers, there's no chance that protests will cease," he warned.