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Hong Kong chief executive announces withdrawal of extradition bill to China

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The controversial extradition bill to China, which sparked three months of pro-democracy protests, was withdrawn on Wednesday, the chief executive of Hong Kong’s government said.

Since June, millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong, the former British colony since its return to China in 1997.

After months of refusal to withdraw the bill, which allows the extradition of suspected criminals to the Chinese mainland, Lam has given up its position, calling for calm.

“The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully calm the concerns of the public,” Kari Lam said in a video released by her office.

Initial reports in the local media had referred to Lam’s announcement, raising hopes that the withdrawal would help end the crisis.

Hong Kong stocks rose nearly 4 percent in afternoon trading after reports spread.

But those hopes quickly dwindled, as activists from the protest movement expressed anger and determination to press ahead with their broader democratic demands.

Joshua Wong, a prominent activist who was arrested at the end of last week as part of a police operation targeting pro-democracy figures, said: “Not enough, too late.”

“We urge the world to be alert to this tactic and not be fooled by the government of Hong Kong and Beijing. They have not already given up anything and massive repressive measures are on their way.”

Demonstrations began as part of protests against efforts by the Lam government to enact the extradition law, which was seen as a further erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms compared to mainland China.

After millions took to the streets, Lam announced the suspension of the bill, but angered the protesters by repeatedly refusing to formally withdraw it.

The movement has turned into a wider campaign, including demands for an independent investigation into police charges of brutal tactics against demonstrators and an amnesty for detainees.

Another requirement is for Hong Kong people to be able to elect their officials directly, a big red line for Beijing.

– The anger of the protesters –

The online discussion forums used by the pro-democracy movement were filled with angry comments on Wednesday that the withdrawal of the bill would not end protests.

“More than 1,000 people have been arrested and countless wounded,” said a message widely shared on Telegram.

For most of the past three months, Lam has been defiant and has either been unwilling or unable to make concessions. ”

An audio recording spread this week, telling a group of businessmen that it had exposed the influence of Beijing, which views the demonstrations as a threat to national security and a question of sovereignty.

Lam says in the audio recording that she wants to resign and take responsibility for the unrest and the extradition law, but she is bound by Beijing.

“It is unforgivable for a female chief executive to cause such a huge mess to Hong Kong,” Lam said with emotion in the recording obtained by Reuters.

“If I have a choice … the first thing is to step down, after making a strong apology,” she said in English.

But after the recording spread, Lam held a news conference on Tuesday, stressing that she had never considered resigning.

– Merkel’s plea –

On the other hand, activists of the pro-democracy movement called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit China in the coming days, in a letter published in the German newspaper Bild.

“Chancellor Merkel, you grew up in East Germany. You know firsthand the horrors of a dictatorship,” the letter says, including activists including Joshua Wong in the letter written in German. “The Germans stood bravely on the front lines of the war against tyranny in the 1980s,” the letter said, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The chancellor is scheduled to pay a visit from Thursday to Sunday to China, Germany’s important trading partner. She is accompanied by a large economic delegation.

“Help us,” the signatories appealed to the chancellor.

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