Officially withdrawing the legislation, which proposed allowing China to extradite fugitives from the territory for trial, meets one of the five demands made by the protesters. The others include setting up a government inquiry into police conduct, granting amnesty to those arrested in the protests, refraining from characterizing the protests as riots and resuming political reforms.
Lam announced plans to investigate the causes of the social unrest and suggest solutions, but stopped short of the full-fledged inquiry demanded by protesters.
Lam’s capitulation follows one of the most violent weekends of protests all summer, when numerous protesters were arrested for tossing gas bombs at police headquarters and government buildings. The demonstration was considered illegal because the government had rejected a permit to assemble.
Hong Kong lawmaker Michael Tien, who had been a proponent of the extradition bill, said the withdrawal was the right thing to do but it may not satisfy the opponents.
“The focus since the beginning of July has completely shifted now to the confrontation between police and rioters, and how the public perceives it,” Tien said. “The public is totally polarized, but it is no longer about the extradition bill.”
The demand on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app used to rally protesters and organize demonstrations, was for all “five demands, not one less.”
Lam’s calling for an independent investigation into police activity during the protests is expected to be met with resistance from law enforcement.
The extradition bill had been “suspended” since June but protesters repeatedly demanded it be fully withdrawn, and they’d vowed to continue demonstrating until that happened. Protests continued every weekend of the summer.
At one point, Lam declared the bill “dead” but said she wouldn’t withdraw it, noting that it could be useful to root out criminals who use Hong Kong as a safe haven. China eventually started amassing troops along the Hong Kong border as the civil unrest grew.