HONG KONG, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Saturday that the HKSAR government will suspend the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance until further communication and explanation work is completed.
"I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise," Lam told a press conference Saturday afternoon at the HKSAR government headquarters building.
The HKSAR government's secretary for security will send a letter to the Legislative Council (LegCo) president to withdraw the notice of resumption of second reading debate on the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill, and the LegCo will halt its work in relation to the bill until the HKSAR government completes its work in communication, explanation and listening to opinions, Lam said.
The bill, tabled by the HKSAR government at the LegCo in April, aims to deal with a murder case that happened in China's Taiwan but involves a Hong Kong suspect who has returned to Hong Kong, and to fill loopholes in HKSAR's existing legal framework concerning mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
Lam said the HKSAR government has been discussing with various sectors of the community in a rational manner and has introduced amendments to the proposal on two occasions to ease the concerns of society and narrow differences, including increasing the threshold for fugitive offenders surrender and introducing additional human rights safeguards.
"My relevant colleagues and I have made our best efforts, but I have to admit that our explanation and communication work has not been sufficient or effective," she said, adding that the HKSAR government will do more work in this regard.
"I want to stress the government is adopting an open mind to heed comprehensively different views in society towards the bill," she added.
To deal with the Taiwan murder case, the HKSAR government has been trying to get the bill passed ahead of the LegCo summer recess in July. However, in consideration of Taiwan's overt and clear expression that it would not accede to the HKSAR government's suggested arrangement in the transfer of the concerned suspect, the original urgency to pass the bill in this legislative year is perhaps no longer there, Lam said.
"We have no intention to set a deadline for this work and promise to report to and consult members of the Legislative Council panel on security before we decide on the next step forward," she said.
The bill was originally scheduled to be discussed at a LegCo meeting on June 12. The meeting was postponed due to violent conflicts between protesters and police around the complex of the HKSAR government and LegCo.
"As a responsible government, we have to maintain law and order on the one hand, and evaluate the situation for the greatest interests of Hong Kong, including restoring calmness in society as soon as possible and avoiding any more injuries to law enforcement officers and citizens," Lam said.
The Chinese central government expressed support, respect and understanding for the decision announced by Lam on Saturday.
"We support, respect and understand the decision," said a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, noting that the central government will continue to support Lam and the HKSAR government's governance in accordance with the law and their efforts with people from all walks of life to safeguard Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.
Noting that the HKSAR police have always been the protector of Hong Kong residents and society, the spokesperson said the central government strongly condemns relevant violent activities and firmly supports the police in cracking down on such activities and police efforts to safeguard Hong Kong's rule of law and social stability.
Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the policies of "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong," and a high degree of autonomy have been faithfully implemented, and the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people have been fully guaranteed in accordance with the law, which has been widely recognized.
"I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is China's special administrative region and its affairs are purely China's internal affairs that brook no interference by any country, organization or individual," Geng said, adding that China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.