Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said the extradition bill can be withdrawn from the legislature with “no debate and no voting,” in a bid to reassure the public a day after she announced the decision.

Netizens on Wednesday noted that Lam said her security chief will “move a motion” in the legislature to formally withdraw the controversial bill. Sceptics — including the protester-organised Citizens Press Conference — said that the motion could be blocked by the pro-Beijing majority in the Legislative Council, meaning the bill would not be axed.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Lam tried to dispel speculation about ulterior motives behind her move.

“Since my announcement, I noticed that there are still some worries about this particular procedure. I want to reiterate here that the sole purpose of the LegCo procedure is to withdraw the bill,” she said.

“This involves the Secretary for Security, as the responsible government official, to announce in the Legislative council that the bill will be withdrawn. There will be no debate and no voting.”

Secretary for Security John Lee. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

When asked if her decision provided the government with an excuse to crack down on protesters, or to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, Lam said that the only reason to withdraw the bill was to “provide a basis for dialogue.” When prompted to offer a public apology, Lam changed the subject.

The chief executive said the decision to formally withdraw the bill was made locally and did not constitute “a change of mind.” Beijing continues to respect One Country, Two Systems and supports her decision, Lam added.

On Wednesday evening, Lam addressed the public via a pre-recorded message and proposed four measures. In addition to withdrawing the bill, Lam said she will add two members to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), conduct more community-level dialogue, and would ask advice from community leaders, professionals and academics.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists have uniformly rejected Lam’s attempt at a concession, saying that all five of the protesters’ core demands must be met.

The pro-Beijing camp offered a more muted response, with major parties such as the DAB backing Lam and saying that Hong Kong should focus on healing social rifts.

The decision to withdraw the controversial bill, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China, comes after almost 14 consecutive weeks of protests, which have evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances.

Lam defends IPCC

Lam’s new picks for the IPCC — former Bar Association chairman Paul Lam and retired former education chief Helen Yu — have been criticised as being pro-establishment, with lawmaker Claudia Mo saying the two are “in [Lam’s] pocket.”

Helen Yu and Paul Lam. File photo: Carrie Lam election ad, Stand News.

On Wednesday, the chief executive said it was “not fair to describe IPCC as dominated by certain people of a certain political background.”

She appointed the duo to the IPCC to help with the workload, she said, and the appointees were politically “neutral.”

Lam was unseated from his leadership post at the Bar Association by barrister Philip Dykes in 2018. Yu was the former director of education and former deputy ombudsman. She supported Lam in her election campaign in 2017.

Shortly after Lam’s Wednesday announcement, the IPCC also said it has hired five overseas experts to help with their study: Irish criminologist Denis O’Connor, judge Colin Doherty from New Zealand, chief commissioner of Australia’s Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Michael Adams, academic Clifford Stott and Gerry McNeilly, former head of a police watchdog group in Canada.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.