By the Associated Press
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Thursday the extradition bill that sparked months of demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory will be formally withdrawn in the legislative council without the need for debate or a vote.
Riot police aim at protesters outside Mong Kok police station during a mod protests in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the government will formally withdraw an extradition bill that has sparked months of demonstrations in the city, bowing to one of the protesters' demands. The bill would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials. It sparked massive protests that have become increasingly violent and caused the airport to shut down earlier this month. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong/MANILA BULLETIN)
Lam told a news conference that the move to withdraw the extradition bill, first announced Wednesday, was her government's decision and that it was backed by Beijing.
Withdrawal of the bill meets one of protesters' five key demands, but the activists have vowed not to yield until the government fulfills all of them. Those also include Lam's resignation, an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, the unconditional release of those detained and the right to directly elect the city's leader.
Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent, with demonstrators throwing gasoline bombs at officers in last weekend protests and police retaliating with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. Some 1,200 people have been detained so far.
The extradition bill would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Many in Hong Kong saw the proposal as an example of the city's eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
Lam reiterated that the government was unable to accept the protesters other demands. She said the police watchdog agency will be impartial and best suited to investigate alleged police misconduct and that releasing detainees without charges would be "unacceptable."
Lam denied making a U-turn on the bill after three months of massive opposition, noting that she suspended the bill in mid-June, days after the protests began, and in July declared the bill effectively dead.
"It is not exactly correct to describe this as a change of mind," she said, adding "as far as the substance is concerned, there is simply no plan to take forward the bill."
She said there will be no debate and no voting in the legislative council, which resumes meeting next month and is packed with pro-Beijing lawmakers. She hopes the bill's formal withdrawal and other measures will provide an "important basis" to open dialogue to seek a way out of the impasse.
The move has failed to appease many protesters, with dozens taking to the streets in some areas overnight shouting "five demands, not one less." Local media reported that protesters built barriers near a police station at Mong Kok and pointed laser beams at police but fled after riot police confronted them.
Students also reportedly staged protests outside some schools Thursday, forming human chains across streets in a show of support for those detained by the government.
More protests are planned for the weekend, including another one at the airport. The airport has been the site of several protests, causing flight disruptions and cancelations.