Hong Kong Reopens Central Government Offices After Mass Protests

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping. File

It was the third time in four days that Lam had softened her stance since she announced the suspension of the bill on Saturday and after about two million people demonstrated on two consecutive Sundays in the city.

Protesters who camped out overnight take a rest along a main road near the Legislative Council after continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, June 17, 2019.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered a "most honest apology" on Tuesday, telling reporters at a press briefing she had heard people's concerns "loud and clear".

Experts say Lam would not have pushed the legislation without guidance from her backers on the mainland, and on Monday Beijing said it will "continue to firmly support" the beleaguered chief executive.

The idea of losing face - being publicly embarrassed - is a major cultural touchstone in China. She also said she hopes to finish her term, shrugging off calls for her resignation with repeated requests for another chance.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has apologised for an extradition bill that sparked mass protests, acknowledging it is now "unlikely" it will pass.

"Last Wednesday, various government departments including the police used the term "rioting" to describe the clashes between people and police", a protester surnamed Leung told RFA.

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Lam stopped short of meeting protesters' demands to scrap the bill, but said legislative work had been "stopped immediately" and there was no timetable for it to resume.

And that adds to its appeal for supporters disaffected from the moneyed elites who run the former British colony, organizers say.

The following day, more than one-quarter of Hong Kong's population took to the streets to repudiate her leadership.

The Executive Council that Lam oversees didn't meet on Tuesday.

They also point out that she had plenty of earlier opportunities to apologise, or halt the bill, after the huge protests on 9 and 12 June.

Lam survived the first no confidence vote against her in May this year, due to the backing of the pro-Beijing majority seated in the LegCo, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

"I will not proceed again with this legislative exercise if these fears and anxieties could not be adequately addressed", she said.

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But her change of wording cut no ice with protesters listening to a live feed of her speech. It had denounced expressions of support for the Hong Kong protesters as interference in the city - and China's - internal affairs. "CHRF does not accept at all Carrie Lam's so-called apology", Bonnie Leung, the group's vice convener, said after Lam spoke.

Late Monday, Hong Kong's police commissioner, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, held a news conference where he sought to defuse anger over aggressive police tactics during protests last week.

But it did not satisfy the many people in Hong Kong who are anxious that the law would fatally damage the city's economy and society, by allowing both residents and visitors to be sent for trial in China's opaque, Communist party-controlled courts.

Lam admitted Tuesday that the remaining three years of her term will be "very hard".

Lam's resignation could pave the way for further demands to allow the direct election of city officials, an outcome enthusiastically desired by pro-democracy demonstrators but resolutely opposed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Lam said that his Taiwanese visa expires next month, "but I know I can not go back to Hong Kong".

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