Following Mass Protests, Hong Kong Suspends Extradition Bill
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Last Sunday, protesters - a quarter million by official estimates, more than a million by others - flooded the streets of Hong Kong in protest against a bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Hong Kong that in a major concession, the government announced it would shelve the bill - at least, for now.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: At a press conference, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam insisted that the bill is well-intentioned, and the government will rework it and try to get it passed. But she regretted that it had been so controversial.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
CHIEF EXECUTIVE CARRIE LAM: 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.
KUHN: A coalition called the Civil Human Rights Front, which is organizing the protests, say they won't be satisfied until the bill is permanently scrapped, so protests scheduled for Sunday will go ahead. Bonnie Leung is the group's vice convenor. She says Beijing could use the bill to round up dissidents.
BONNIE LEUNG: Most Hong Kong people really, really worried about is that the extradition bill, if passed by the Legislative Council, will be used as a political tool for the Chinese governments to achieve their political purposes.
KUHN: It certainly helped the bill's opponents that Beijing is preoccupied at the moment by a trade war with the U.S., but there's also no doubt that the massive protests had an impact. Jeff Wasserstrom, a historian at the University of California Irvine, says that when Hong Kong flexes its civic muscles, it's a heady experience, as he witnessed during the last round of pro-democracy protests five years ago.
JEFF WASSERSTROM: It was a magical feeling on the streets, a sense of an alternative community and civil society that could be breathtaking at times.
KUHN: The good vibes don't always mean that protest movements succeed, he adds. But they demonstrate what people are capable of - an example for people today and for future generations.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.