Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Hong Kong to Withdraw Controversial Extradition Bill. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[06:00:00]

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MICHAEL TIEN, PRO-BEIJING LEGISLATOR: -- (INAUDIBLE) of the five demands, he basically said the central government's position essentially no to the five demands except with regard to the independent commission. This is not the right time.

So that was the only one, it was the only demand out of the five that this, the central government, did not close the door at that time.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So when would be the right time, do you think, for Beijing to have that investigation?

TIEN: I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, I had pleaded with government, with Carrie Lam today, that she should declare an intention or a promise to set up this commission. But with the work only starting after the unrest has been sort of -- come under control. But that promise is not even forthcoming.

HANCOCKS: Is it Carrie Lam who is able to make that call or does this need to be decided by Beijing?

TIEN: Absolutely, it needs to be decided by Beijing. So I'm actually speaking as a National People's Congress deputy to the central government as well. And in fact I am simply reiterating the line that Director Chung (ph) had put forward a couple of weeks ago in (INAUDIBLE), that actually if we were to do that commission, right, this is not the right time.

So my proposal today is (INAUDIBLE) should declare that we will do it, OK, after the unrest has been settled. People want a information (ph) that eventually a commission like that will be set up, to dig to the bottom of who's right and who's wrong because lately there have been too many allegations against police.

Every time there's confrontation, there's cries about police brutality. But if you really talk to normal people, even though they never even were at the scene of any of these confrontations, just from looking at video clip that they received, there's a lot of hatred against police, which I think is a serious problem in the future.

HANCOCKS: So for the protesters themselves, do you think they will see the move today by Carrie Lam as Carrie Lam and Beijing backing down?

Or do you think they will welcome it as --

(CROSSTALK)

TIEN: I don't want to comment on that. I know how they will react. I don't want to comment on that. I sincerely pray to God that I would be wrong because I'm a Christian.

HANCOCKS: What do you think happens next, do you think this will be enough for protesters?

TIEN: Well, you ask, you are finding another way to ask me the same question. I have doubts.

HANCOCKS: What do you think does come next for Hong Kong?

This is one of the five demands being asked.

TIEN: (INAUDIBLE) government's latest gesture of meeting only one of the five demands and that one is actually out of focus today.

I'm afraid that the rest (INAUDIBLE) and we (INAUDIBLE) tighten our belt and look for some difficult times ahead, including businesses, the retail, the restaurant trade was severely affected.

HANCOCKS: Michael Tien, thank you very much for joining us. I do appreciate it.

Michael Tien there talking about that meeting, where Carrie Lam, the chief executive, has decided that the extradition bill will be fully withdrawn. But of course the question on everyone's minds, and no one has the answer, is if that will be enough -- Kristie.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Paula Hancocks, thank you. And Paula, thank you for asking Michael Tien the question of whether that this was something that needed to be decided by Beijing. And he told you the answer was yes, that Carrie Lam needed Beijing's blessing for that announcement. Paula Hancocks, thank you.

Now just to reset, breaking news, the chief executive of Hong Kong has just announced in the last few minutes during the interview just now -- she was on local TV here in Hong Kong -- she announced a full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Now she also said that two new commissioners of the IPCC have been named. This is the Independent Police Complaints Committee. This is not what the protesters were asking for. They're asking for a completely independent commission of inquiry to look into evidence of police brutality.

[06:05:00]

STOUT: So she is basically granting only one of the five demands from the protest movement, the full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Joining me now is pro democracy activist Joshua Wong.

Joshua, this is only one of the your five demands but a major one.

Do you see this as a major victory for your protest movement?

JOSHUA WONG, HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: It is not a victory at all. It's too late and too little until now. Especially Carrie Lam's response comes after seven activist suicides, more than 1,200 protesters arrested in which many are mistreated in police stations with police brutality.

Our cause on free election and stop police brutality will still continue. They can't stop our protests.

STOUT: You call this too little, too late. But as we heard from the pro Beijing lawmaker just now, this is it. She's only going to grant this one demand.

You still plan to fight for the others?

WONG: We still plan our fight, especially our cause on free election. We demand to elect our own government. That's why our protests will continue at least until of October 1st, China's National Day.

I just hope people are aware that Hong Kong people, our hometown was already transformed into a police state under Beijing interference and Beijing endorsement. Instead of just having withdrawal of bill, what Hong Kong people fundamentally are asking for is to have a free election.

Now we're strongly aware and I believe that international communities are also aware that the leaders of Hong Kong, which is Carrie Lam, is just kind of proxy government and just the puppet of Communist authorities. And the chaos generated by Carrie Lam (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

STOUT: Right. We're losing you a little bit there. I want to make sure I still have your contact.

Joshua, as you make your point very, very clear, you have your eyes on the much bigger prize, which is universal suffrage, universal voting rights for the people of Hong Kong. But the fact that we got to this point, the extradition bill has not been suspended, it's not dead. It's been fully withdrawn after weeks of protests.

Why do you think Carrie Lam made this decision?

WONG: Carrie Lam make this decision is finally she aware must respect and listen to the voice of people. Even I don't believe this is a sincere move at all because it's just because how the discontent and the sacrifice of Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong people are willing to pay our price, continue our fight and finally, after three months of summer of discontent, it's really remarkable and symbolic on this day, finally, Carrie Lam completely withdrawal of it.

We still recognize it's better than nothing and it's still because of the contribution and the sacrifice of activists.

But instead of showing the positive impression to Carrie Lam, I think now it is the time for the world to focus that why the chaos would happen in the past three months is not because of Hong Kong people who not enjoy their way of living.

It's all because the leader of Hong Kong never respected our voice and never be elected by us. So on 4th of September, such remarkable in --

(CROSSTALK)

WONG: OK, it's withdrawn. But our cause on universal suffrage will continue.

STOUT: So do you think that your activism, your protests, that people power works in Hong Kong?

That people power got this bill withdrawn and people power will get you universal voting rights?

WONG: That's what we believe. When, with the power of people, it finally forcing Hong Kong government and Beijing to withdraw the bill. And now is the time with our lesson learned in this summer of discontent, now the summer of discontent will transform and becoming the year of discontent. Before 4th of September, we still focus on the extradition bill and after 4th of September, now is the battle of David versus Goliath. We need to continue our fight until we get democracy back in Hong Kong.

STOUT: Now the fight has gotten really ugly. There were some very dark scenes recently, particularly last weekend, the violent clashes, the throwing of petrol bombs by hardline protesters, the use of water cannon, gunfire used as warning shots by the police, et cetera, bonfires on the streets of Hong Kong. The city was actually burning.

[06:10:00]

STOUT: Do you think with this development, the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, does the temperature dial down somewhat?

Will there be a relative peace in Hong Kong?

WONG: Most Hong Kong people asking for is upholding the five major demands and urge government withdraw the bill, stop police brutality and give us back free election.

So now the bill is withdrawn. But police brutality still exists and now we don't have election, we have only selection. That's the reason they just people with the lesson we learned in the past few months to continue our strike.

STOUT: I get that, Joshua. I'm asking you whether or not the peace will return because the Hong Kong government has said, when peace returns, that is when a political process can begin.

Do you welcome a political process, a dialogue with the Hong Kong government after the full withdrawal of the extradition bill?

WONG: First, as to peaceful or not. Second it's about dialogue. Peace protest result in peaceful or not, does not depend on protester. It depends on riot police. Recall the memories of two days ago, during the class boycott assembly during the daytime.

More than 40,000 university and high school students were on streets without any clash violence and arrested. We show that no police, we have peace. How the students and youngsters have the class boycott protest peacefully just show that we can have protests peacefully without any violence if police don't storm into the crowd.

So we further the question of dialogue. In the past three months, pro democratic lawmaker always urge to have a dialogue or meeting with Carrie Lam but Carrie Lam refused all their requests from pro- democratic lawmaker.

(INAUDIBLE).

When Carrie Lam is not the decision-maker, she is just the puppet of Communist authorities. The bill thrown out is not depends on Hong Kong government. It depends on Beijing. So I don't see any efficiency on having dialogue with her.

STOUT: That's something that you've told me before is that, for any process or progress to take place in this process, a dialogue has to take place between the protesters and Beijing.

But, Joshua, do you really think Beijing authorities want to sit down and talk to you and other high-profile figures of the protest movement?

WONG: I don't see any intention for Beijing officials is willing to listen to the voice of protesters or is willing to have a dialogue with protesters. And the most important thing is what's Hong Kong people is asking for is free election, is universal suffrage.

And also, that's the promise of Beijing to Hong Kong people in the Sino-British Declaration, the international treaty, registered in the United Nations.

What we are asking for in the past three months, in the past three years or even past three decades is just the promise Beijing made to us Hong Kong people and we are just asking for them to guarantee their promise to Hong Kong people.

We need free election and here is Hong Kong, not Mainland China. We deserve universal suffrage and the leader of Hong Kong must be elected by our vote and not hand-picked by Beijing.

STOUT: Joshua Wong, thank you very much for joining us. Take care.

WONG: Thank you. STOUT: You've been watching our breaking news coverage and what we have heard directly on local Hong Kong television, we heard from the chief executive herself, Carrie Lam, saying she does intend to fully withdraw the extradition bill.

That was the one issue that launched this entire summer of protest. But it is only one of the five demands granted, the demands that protesters like Joshua Wong have been asking for.

You heard from Joshua Wong just then. He believes that protest power, people power, led to this result after 13 weeks of massive and highly disruptive protests, the controversial extradition bill will be fully withdrawn. We'll have more on this, take care.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

STOUT: Breaking news here at CNN. The Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, has just announced on local television as expected a full withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill.

The bill would have allowed suspects to stand trial in Mainland China. It is one of five demands from pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets for 13 weeks now in widespread, sometimes violent protests.

The four other demands are for the resignation of Carrie Lam; they've asked for an independent inquiry into police brutality, for those arrested to be exonerated and released, as well as greater Democratic freedoms.

Lam addressed other demands by protesters, she said the government would use the existing inquiry as opposed to setting up an independent investigation and the release of protesters in detention is not an acceptable demand.

Let's bring in CNN's Anna Coren.

Anna, we had to rely on sources in the meeting with Carrie Lam. We have in the last 15 minutes heard from the live broadcast from Carrie Lam, making the announcement that she will finally withdraw the bill.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kristie, this is something that protesters have been waiting for, for the past three months. As we've heard from Joshua Wong and other protesters on social media, other citizens here in Hong Kong, is that this is too little too late.

Now I was at the press conference with Carrie Lam yesterday, at her offices when she fronted the media after that leaked audio recording obtained by Reuters, of her speaking to business people at a private luncheon last week, where she said that if she had a choice, she would quit, that the havoc that she has caused here in Hong Kong through this extradition bill is unforgivable.

She did, however, when pushed by the media, say that she has never tendered her resignation to Beijing. She said, I've never considered resigning to Beijing.

We know that Carrie Lam has been under enormous pressure. This is a woman, a 62-year-old woman, a lifetime bureaucrat, who has had to answer to not just the people of Hong Kong but to Beijing. At the end of the day, Beijing is her master.

And from what we have been hearing over the past couple of months, she put forward her resignation, Beijing didn't accept it. Beijing also said we will not cave in to those five demands.

So the question, Kristie, other than, will this quell the protests, is why has China allowed Carrie Lam to formally withdraw this very controversial extradition bill after saying the last three months that it wouldn't do that?

[06:20:00]

COREN: Some commentators are saying that the upcoming National Day celebrations on the 1st of October, the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, that that is a very important day in the calendar for China.

And they don't want the violence here in Hong Kong, the protests here in Hong Kong, to overshadow those National Day celebrations. So the feeling certainly has been they need to get a handle on the situation, here in Hong Kong so that the violence doesn't upstage what happens in China on the 1st of October.

But as we've been hearing, protests are likely to continue. Carrie Lam is hoping that this will somehow placate the people of Hong Kong. People have been turning out now for 13 weeks, taking to the streets, protesting, many peacefully, others violently, taking that extreme action, confronting police with bombs and bricks and setting barricades on fire.

Carrie Lam is hoping that will stop. This is hurting the economy. This is hurting businesses, hurting people's livelihoods. Tourism is suffering here in Hong Kong. People are not coming to Hong Kong because they see the images on television and they think that Hong Kong is in flames.

This is drawing international attention. This is on the front page of papers around the world. And China knows this. China knows that it needs to get a handle on the situation in Hong Kong.

Even though, in those leaked recordings, Carrie Lam said that there was not a short-term political solution for the protests and, Kristie, that Beijing is prepared to play the long game.

STOUT: Anna, as you mentioned, two big open-ended questions. Why did this happen?

Why did Beijing allow her to grant this request to the protesters?

And also, what's going to happen next?

Is this going to placate the protest movement?

We did get a bit of a hint from the pro democracy activist, Joshua Wong, a couple of minutes ago. He said people power is what brought about the full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

We could see the protest movement feel emboldened to achieve something else. Anna, you and I have reported on the story from the very beginning, when things kicked off on June the 9th.

You were there a week later when we saw 2 million people out on the streets and that was just a day after Carrie Lam said that the bill was dead, that it was suspended. That was not enough for the masses of Hong Kong to turn out in protest.

What is your feeling at this moment?

Will we see a return of not just the hardline protesters, those who want universal suffrage, but those -- the masses angry about the political institutions, angry about the performance of the government and Carrie Lam and angry about the police force.

Could we see those types of numbers again?

COREN: Well, Kristie, I think you make a really good point because when Carrie Lam came out and said she had suspended the bill and subsequently that the bill was dead, protesters did feel emboldened. It galvanized them, they thought, yes, we've got a win, we've got a victory.

We are making progress, we are making the Hong Kong government, we are making Beijing sit up and take notice to what is going on here in the streets.

And as the months have gone on and the violence has escalated, the world has taken a real notice of what is happening on the streets of Hong Kong. This is on the front page of international papers week in, week out.

We are hearing comments from the U.S. government, from the U.K. government, governments around the world, are passing comment as to what is happening here in Hong Kong.

And even though China will say this is an internal issue, this has nothing to do with the outside world, it really has attracted so much attention. And it has this, these reverberations if you like, not just here in the region but around the world.

Kristie, the protesters, they are people who have got a taste of something that they, they haven't had ever, you know. They lived under British colonial rule, if they were alive then. Many of the protesters taking to the streets have only been born in the last 22 years.

So they've only known the freedoms and the civil liberties that they've enjoyed since the handover from Britain to China back in 1997. And this is something that they want to hold onto. They have seen China encroach on their freedoms. They have seen their lives be scrutinized.

[06:25:00]

COREN: They have seen China make inroads into the way that Hong Kong functions and they do not like it. They've been to the mainland. They don't want Hong Kong to become part of China.

So these are protesters who are fighting for the democracy that they have enjoyed, the freedoms that they have enjoyed. They, in their minds, are fighting for the soul of Hong Kong.

STOUT: Absolutely.

And how do you think these protests, the extradition bill itself, how has it changed Hong Kong?

You know it's, it started as a single-issue protest. It morphed into something far bigger than that, as you said. The soul of Hong Kong. Including fighting for universal suffrage, universal voting rights, the act to be able to elect a leader of Hong Kong, not through a small circle election committee of what, 1,200 people, but for one person, one vote. Seven million people in Hong Kong to be able to elect that leader.

Even though this key crucial demand has been granted to the people of Hong Kong, the extradition bill is out. Carrie Lam is saying it is fully withdrawn.

The legacy of that bill and the protests that it has sparked and ongoing, how has this fundamentally changed Hong Kong?

COREN: Well, Kristie, it's almost become the norm here in Hong Kong, for these students to turn out on weekends, if not during the week, with their hardhats and goggles and masks and take part in these demonstrations.

These kids -- I call them kids because they are in their 20s, many of them -- they have had a taste of something and they don't want to lose it.

You know when we saw that the storming of LegCo on the 1st of July, there were storming and spray-painting the building, saying Hong Kong is not China. And that is something that the people here in these cities fundamental feel.

Yes, it is part of China. It is a special administrative region but they do not see themselves as part of the mainland. They see themselves as a different species. That was, that was put to me by pro democracy activist, Denise Ho. She said that Hong Kongers are a different species to mainland Chinese.

They see themselves as very different and they don't want China to encroach on what they have here.

STOUT: Anna Coren, we thank you for your reporting.

And we thank all of you for your company as we report on this breaking news story. The extradition bill here in Hong Kong will be fully withdrawn. "NEW DAY" is next. Special news coverage of Hurricane Dorian as it barrels toward the U.S. You're watching CNN, stay with us.