Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Carrie Lam announces on June 15, 2019 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.(Xinhua/Li Gang)
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.
In response to media questioning, Lam clarified that the amendments were initiated and managed by the HKSAR government and it would not withdraw the proposal since the original purposes were right.
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.
An official in charge of the liaison office of the central government in the HKSAR said that since she came into office two years ago, Lam has been upholding the principle of "setting no easy goals and avoiding no difficult tasks" and leading the HKSAR government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law and assuming a proactive role, which has always been highly recognized and fully trusted by the central government.
The liaison office will remain steadfast in supporting the chief executive and the HKSAR government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with law, maintaining the order of rule of law in Hong Kong society and safeguarding the lawful rights and interests of Hong Kong residents, so as to secure Hong Kong as a prosperous and stable home for all, the official said.
An official in charge of the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR also voiced continuous staunch support for Lam and the HKSAR government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law, safeguarding the country's sovereignty, security and development interests, and upholding Hong Kong's enduring prosperity and stability.
The official strongly condemned the violent acts by some people and voiced firm support for the Hong Kong police force to mete out punishment in accordance with law, stressing that freedom is by no means without boundaries, and rights must be exercised within the framework of the rule of law.
The decision to suspend the legislative amendment exercise was also supported by various sectors of the Hong Kong society.
Voicing support to the decision, the Non-official Members of the HKSAR Executive Council (ExCo Members) said in a statement that they would continue to offer their full support for the chief executive, and would call on members of the public to adopt a calm and rational manner when expressing their views, and to safeguard the civilized, free, open and pluralistic society of Hong Kong.
Speaking through a spokesperson, president of the LegCo Andrew Leung said he understood the decision and believed it was made after carefully listening to the voices of various sectors of the society.
Noting that the decision would enable more explanation, he appealed to the public to express their views in a peaceful and rational manner that reflects Hong Kong's long-respected spirit of rule of law.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) Chairman Aron Harilela said the HKGCC welcomed the HKSAR government's decision for it would allow things to cool down and let everyone return to rational debate.
"We look forward to the government continuing to engage in constructive discussions with stakeholders and the public to address and eliminate doubts about the bill," added Harilela.