Hong Kong has indefinitely suspended a proposed legislation that would allow extradition to mainland China, after days of protests across the city.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who formerly rejected calls to withdraw the plan, announced the decision on Saturday, saying that the urgency felt to pass the bill before the legislative year ends "perhaps no longer exists.”
“The bill has caused a lot of division in society,” she said. “I have to admit in terms of explanation and communication, there were inadequacies."
"We have to bear in mind the greatest interests of Hong Kong," she said, which involved "restoring peace and order.”
If the bill becomes law, Hong Kong would be allowed to send suspects to other jurisdictions around the world, including to China and Taiwan.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 — under a "one country, two systems" deal that guarantees it a level of autonomy, including a separate and independent legal system.
The proposed change in law, however, is considered by many as a threat to the city’s autonomy.
A large-scale rally was held in the city last Saturday with the participation of more than a more than one million people who called on the government to retract the bill.
Then on Wednesday, just hours before the bill was due to be debated in the city’s legislature, protests turned violent when tens of thousands of people moved to occupy key roads around government headquarters.
Unrest continues with protesters returning to the streets again on Thursday and police using tear gas and water canon to disperse them.
Clashes erupted between police and demonstrators, injuring at least 22 police officers and 60 protesters.
According to officials, eleven people were also arrested.
Western governments have voiced their opposition to the plan. China has reacted by warning against interference in its affairs.
Beijing also denounced the violence and expressed support for the government in Hong Kong.
On Friday, Beijing summoned Robert Forden, the US Deputy Chief of Mission in Beijing, to protest against Washington’s interference in Hong Kong affairs.
“China called on the United States ... to immediately stop all interference in Hong Kong’s affairs and stop taking action that would affect the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“China will proceed with its next step based on the action taken by the US,” it added.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin proposed legislation that would require Washington to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify the continuation of special treatment for the territory.
China, however, called on Washington “to give up its delusions of creating chaos in Hong Kong.”
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