Editorial | Carrie on

Paulo Coutinho

The deadline imposed by legislators and activists for Hong Kong’s government to meet demands for the withdrawal of the controversial extradition legislation and for Carrie Lam to step down passed yesterday without any official response. So, the number of protesters outside the Legislative Council, which had dwindled since last Sunday’s march, began picking up again yesterday afternoon.

Another group, the Civil Human Rights Front, which had organized massive marches the past two Sundays, has called for another protest on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Those demands follow from a dramatic press conference on Tuesday, when Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for her handling of the extradition bill, that could be used to send suspects to mainland China for trial, and threatens the territory’s judicial independence.

The press meeting was as intense as were the Sundays’ mega demos. Carrie Lam sustained a barrage of questions which were endless variations of essentially two issues: are you going to step down? Are you going to completely scrap the fugitives bill? And those were ‘the’ questions, because over two million people, a whole city, cried out loud, making these demands for two Sundays in a row.

Carrie Lam answered all questions without exception – bravely – and although she had to repeat herself over and over again, she consciously added details to her replies and reformulated them to the point of near surrender. The climax followed a BBC correspondent’s question to the point concerning her dismissal and the withdrawal of the extradition bill which prompted the largest protest ever in the Hong Kong SAR.

“I don’t think we have time to relaunch the legislative mechanism [for debating and passing the fugitives’ ordinance] within the current legislature” which ends in July 2020, Lam said. “Therefore, the bill will lapse. And the government will accept that.”

It was capitulation right there. The bill will not pass because “the anxiety that it caused” in the community (her words) won’t go away in the foreseeable future.

Carrie apologized but she didn’t step down. With dignity and wet eyes on the edge of collapsing in tears, she asked instead for a “second chance” to make it up to the people of Hong Kong. She has but herself to blame for the deadlock emerging from blind obedience to Beijing and lousy timing – on the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen, really?!

My guess is that “second chance” act is a rehearsal for what she’s going to announce at her next public appearance: her resignation. Because, make no mistake, the protests will carry on while Carrie Lam shoulders the responsibility of China’s attempt to suffocate the autonomy of the SAR.

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