Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, says she will fully withdraw the controversial extradition bill that sparked three months of increasingly fierce protests.
“The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns,” Lam said in a televised address. Formal confirmation of the decision can only be made when Hong Kong's Legislative Council resumes next month.
Since the bill, which would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China, was introduced in April, there have been mass protests for 14 consecutive weeks.
While the demonstrations were initially focused only on the bill, they have morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement, paralyzing Hong Kong and plunging the city into its worst political crisis since the end of British rule in 1997.
Lam previously declared the proposed law “dead” and suspended it, but protesters made its complete withdrawal one of five key demands, which also include calls for an independent inquiry into the police response to the protests, for amnesty for those arrested, for further democratic reforms, and for officials to stop describing the demonstrations as riots.
Lam did not address any of the other demands, and protests are expected to continue despite the bill’s formal withdrawal.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, speaking before Lam’s official announcement, said withdrawing the bill was “too little and too late.”
While the mass protests began peacefully, in recent weeks they have become increasingly violent. Police have used water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against protesters. Meanwhile, thugs in white T-shirts and acting with apparent impunity have attacked protesters at metro stations. And last weekend, protesters threw gasoline bombs at police and government buildings.
This week, Reuters published a leaked audio of Lam saying that she would step down if she could.