Is Hong Kong’s proposal to withdraw Extradition Bill a ruse?

News that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has proposed to withdraw the now-infamous Extradition Bill, the catalyst for more than three months of protests in Hong Kong, appears to be a cause for celebration.

Dig a little deeper, however, and you can see that this is nothing more than a thinly veiled ruse designed to convince the United States to avoid imposing further sanctions that would cripple China and limit their expansion.

Despite months of resistance to policy change and a flat-out refusal to cater to any of the Hong Kong democracy protesters’ demands, Lam held a shock broadcast indicating she would speak to her fellow pro-establishment apparatchiks and advise them of her decision to remove the Extradition Bill.

In addition, she signalled there could be an investigation into the horrific police brutality inflicted on protesters over the past few months. Something we’ve only just begun to see the full extent of thanks to the perseverance and hard work of the local press.

Videos of unarmed protesters being bludgeoned by hordes of riot police, men and women surrendering on the subway only to be hit with pepper spray and tear gas canisters followed by brutal beatings, a young protester having his neck broken only for his near-lifeless body to be dragged away from prying journalists. These are all examples of brutality the people of Hong Kong want investigated.

It is easy to think, then, that Lam’s announcement of a review into how the police have handled the protests would be welcome news.

Not so, ­according to the protesters I have been speaking with while here in Hong Kong.

Lam has deferred the review to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), a two-tier police complaints organisation that has limited investigative abilities, let alone the jurisdiction to call on a single witness for the proposed review.

To make matters worse, the IPCC is almost entirely made up of former policemen and pro-Beijing Legislative Council members who have little interest in undermining the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

To the protesters, this is evidence that the agreements just announced are nothing more than an illusion.

Motions to withdraw the Extradition Bill are not scheduled to go before the pro-Beijing Legislative Council until late October, after their scheduled break.

Protesters are right to demand this egregious bill be removed immediately — but they know exactly why Lam wants to wait. Lam and her handlers back in Beijing want the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, designed to punish China for their crackdown in Hong Kong, to appear redundant.

They believe the US will avoid using crippling sanctions if American politicians get the sense that the issues in Hong Kong are subsiding.

Once the bill fails, there will be less of an appetite to put it back up for a vote and China will have a free pass at once again ramping up their attempts to crush the democracy-loving citizens of Hong Kong.

“Do not trust Lam” people tell me, “she is (an) agent of Beijing”. This is a long game by the CCP and it is plain to see.

Memes and infographics are already being shared across anonymously run Telegram channels in an attempt to highlight how devious the current moves are.

Protesters speak of heading to the US Consulate on September 8 to try and show the world how badly they want the Act to pass. They hold up American flags as a sign of solidarity, they demand the world give them democracy or death because they know what awaits if America falters and China exerts full control of the country that they love.

In Hong Kong, nobody trusts the government, not even young students.

Earlier this week I visited one of many student protests against police brutality. Children as young as 10 wore patches on their right eye as a sign of respect for a nurse who lost her eye after the police shot rubber pellets into a crowd of protesters. They are so worried and frustrated by what is happening that young children screamed angrily and shouted pro-democracy slogans at a police car as it passed by.

Students wear eye patches to show respect for a nurse who lost her eye during the protests

Students wear eye patches to show respect for a nurse who lost her eye during the protests

Yet despite their emotions running high, the strike was nothing but peaceful. They do not want violence, they only want a democratic Hong Kong and they want the rest of the world to listen.

The people of Hong Kong know that any backward step by Carrie Lam must be part of a longer term goal to wait out the West. The CCP think in much longer terms than our Western counterparts who only ever have the next election cycle in mind. For the sake of Hong Kong and for the sake of democracy in South East Asia, let’s hope US politicians are able to see through Carrie Lam’s facade.

This article appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 6 September 2019.

Brian Marlow