Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam formally withdrew the extradition bill that has triggered moths of protests in the China-controlled territory, multiple media reports suggested Wednesday, in a move that could ease tensions in one of Asia's key financial hubs.
The South China Morning Post first reported that Lam, who has been under pressure to resign from both high-profile figures in China for failing to quell the at-times dangerous protests and Hong Kong citizens for seemingly capitulating to Beijing, would announce the bill's withdraw later today. Lam made her decision official during a news conference in Hong Kong late Wednesday.
"From this month, I and my principal officials will reach out to the community to start a direct dialogue," Lam said. "People from all walks of life, with different views and backgrounds are invited to share their views and air their grievances."
The withdraw lifted the city's Hang Seng index more than 3.9% by the close of trading Wednesday, taking the benchmark to 26,523.23 points, the highest level since January 15. Shares in the broader Asia region were also rising on the news.
The extradition bill, first published earlier this year, would have allowed China to extradite citizens of Hong Kong to face trial in courts controlled by that country's Communist government. Lam had suspended debate of the bill in parliament on June 15, and declared it "dead" on June 9, but failed to convince demonstrators that she would blunt Beijing's influence over the standing "one country, two systems" agreement established after the handover from Britain to China in 1997.
China's growing irritation with the protest, which have hive more than 10% from the Hang Seng index since late June, tipped the benchmark into negative territory for the year and added to the region's economic pressures as it combats the ongoing trade war with the United States, was evidenced by several reports suggesting the People's Armed Police have been assembled in the mainland city of Shenzen.
Hong Kong's first and second quarter GDP growth rate held at 0.6% so far this year, but those figures were recorded prior to the intensifying protests in late June. Furthermore, investment rates in the China-ruled territory contracted 12.1% from last year over the second quarter, official data indicated last month, as tensions from the U.S.-China trade war took their toll on exports, freight volumes and tourist spending.