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Why Hong Kong protesters say withdrawing extradition bill is ‘too little, too late’

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the formal withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China for trials. The proposal sparked months of large-scale demonstrations that sometimes turned violent. But as Nick Schifrin reports, protesters’ reactions were largely negative, with pro-democracy advocates saying it’s too little, too late.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Hong Kong, the chief executive announced today that she will formally withdraw a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China for trials.

    This proposal has sparked months of large-scale, sometimes violent protests.

    But, as Nick Schifrin tells us, protesters reaction was negative, saying her move is too little, too late.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Judy, it was the bill that launched 1,000 protests.

    Since April, protesters have filled Hong Kong's streets, clashing on some occasions with police, and, at one point, ransacking the building where the local government convenes.

    Hong Kong is an international financial capital, but it has struggled to stay open for business. Last month, the airport was shut down by sit-ins and clashes. Officials in Beijing have labeled the protesters criminals and terrorists.

    Today, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was trying to restore stability.

  • Carrie Lam:

    Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law, and to restore order and safety in society. As such, the government has to strictly enforce the law against all violent and illegal acts.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lam also discussed investigating police tactics and holding talks with protest and pro-democracy leaders.

    I'm now joined by a pro-democracy legislator, Alvin Yeung, a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council.

    Alvin Yeung, thank you for joining us.

    Is what Carrie Lam announced today enough?

  • Alvin Yeung:

    What Carrie Lam said today is too little too late.

    If she had done it three months ago, Hong Kong people wouldn't have suffered so much. And, by now, this so-called withdrawal, of course, is one of the five demands that Hong Kong people are asking for.

    But she didn't and failed to address the police brutality. Let's make it very clear here. The system here in Hong Kong, the so-called Police Investigation Committee, has no investigative power. There's no way that this committee could require any witness to attend and tell truth.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lam also spoke about dialogue with community leaders and universal suffrage, something that protesters have been demanding and that's referenced in the 1997 deal, when the British left Hong Kong.

    Is it a positive sign that she mentioned those?

  • Alvin Yeung:

    So-called dialogue, we have witnessed from previous experience that this government only pick and choose people from their own camp to have a dialogue with.

    And even if, when they pick somebody from the other side, the democratic side, they were simply just there to listen, and without taking any action.

    And let me remind everybody who's listening or watching this program, five years ago, there was an Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. Carrie Lam, who was then the chief secretary, the number two person of the government, she had a dialogue with the then student leaders.

    And guess what? Out of the five student leaders, four of them got arrested.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    We were there back in July, and we saw when protesters ransacked through the Legislative Council.

    Beijing has called protesters criminals, even terrorists. Are there any criminals inside the protests? And that violence, is that a concern of yours?

  • Alvin Yeung:

    My concern, rather, is by withdrawing the bill, is laying foundation for Carrie Lam to put forward something called emergency regulation, which is totally unchecked, which is totally a very piece of — powerful piece of legislation that empowers the chief executive — that is Carrie Lam, of course — to make any regulation to restrict basic freedoms, including to ban freedom of assembly.

    And this is something that really concerns not only Hong Kong people, but also the international community.

    We fear that, over the past few months, we have witnessed, including Hong Kong officials and Beijing officials, they accuse Hong Kong protesters as terrorists or even having a color revolution, which is totally unsound, which is totally groundless and unfair.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    You brought up color revolutions, of course, referencing the Eastern European movements that overthrew communist governments.

    Are you saying that what you are asking for is actually limited and that you're not asking for any kind of independence from mainland China?

  • Alvin Yeung:

    We are not asking for independence.

    We are asking for universal suffrage, to freely elect our chief executive and our legislature, as promised by Beijing. We are not asking for the moon. We are being very reasonable here.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    You started by saying that this was too little, too late. Does that mean the protests will continue?

  • Alvin Yeung:

    Hong Kong people cannot take it as a victory. In fact, it's still far, far from victory.

    When police brutality cannot be dealt with, when Hong Kong people are still asking, demanding for something that we were supposed to be granted years ago — that is universal suffrage, to freely our elect leaders — then I'm sure Hong Kong people will not give up.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Alvin Yeung, thank you very much.

  • Alvin Yeung:

    Thank you.

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