Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the effort to amend a highly contentious extradition bill was dead, but it wasn't clear if the legislation was being formally withdrawn as protesters have demanded. Leaders of the monthlong protest movement vowed to keep up pressure until the legislation is officially revoked.
Lam acknowledged at a news conference that there were "lingering doubts about the government's sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council." But she said: "I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead."
Hundreds of thousands of people in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory have protested against the extradition legislation and have expressed growing fear that Hong Kong is losing the freedoms guaranteed to it when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
Protest leaders Jimmy Sham and Bonnie Leung said Lam was being hypocritical in claiming to have met protesters' demands without actually speaking to them directly.
"Instead, she should really stand out and talk to the young protesters," Leung said. "The young protesters have been out in the street outside her house, outside government headquarters, for weeks, roaring to be heard."
The extradition legislation would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face what critics fear would be unfair and politicized trials and would target opponents of China's ruling Communist Party.
In the most recent protest on Sunday, tens of thousands of people, chanting "Free Hong Kong" and some carrying British colonial-era flags, marched toward a high-speed railway station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland. They said they wanted to carry a peaceful protest message to people on the mainland, where state-run media have not covered the protests widely but have focused instead on clashes with police and property damage.
On July 1, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover, a peaceful march drew hundreds of thousands of people but was overshadowed by an assault on the territory's legislative building. A few hundred demonstrators shattered thick glass panels to enter the building and wreaked havoc for three hours, spray-painting slogans on the chamber walls, overturning furniture and damaging electronic voting and fire prevention systems.
Protesters also are demanding an independent investigation into alleged police abuse of force against protesters on June 12, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds blocking major streets.
Lam said Tuesday that investigations would take place under the Department of Justice "in accordance with the evidence, the law and also the prosecution code."
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