UPDATE (9.30 p.m. local time): Hong Kong’s top official, Carrie Lam, apologized to the city’s residents on Sunday night, saying in a statement that the government’s “inadequacies” have “caused huge friction and dispute in the society” and “disappointed and saddened the people of Hong Kong.”
Lam’s apology came as mass protests continued over a controversial extradition bill that Lam had been pushing but has now set aside ― a dispute that has called many to call for her ouster. Sunday’s demonstration in the city began several hours before Lam issued her statement.
One demonstrator, 25-year-old music teacher Chau Chong, told the South China Morning Post that the leader’s apology was “too late.”
“She should have apologized for not improving people’s livelihood. She should resign,” Chau said. “But sadly, we know that even if she does step down, Beijing will just find another puppet to run Hong Kong.”
Another protester told the paper that Lam should apologize in person.
“She can come here ... We will lend her a chair,” the demonstrator said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that President Donald Trump intends to discuss the Hong Kong unrest with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this month.
“We’re watching the people of Hong Kong speak about the things they value ... we’ll see what [Lam’s] decision is in the coming days and weeks ahead,” Pompeo told Fox News.
Hundreds of thousands of black-clad protesters clogged the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, a day after the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, announced the suspension of a widely opposed extradition bill.
The demonstrators called for the bill’s permanent withdrawal and Lam’s resignation, among other demands, according to reporters at the scene,
A wave of protests, some of them violent, has shaken Hong Kong in response to a law proposed by Lam that would allow the extradition of people to mainland China.
Though Hong Kong is a part of China, the territory has been governed under a legal system known as “one country, two systems” since its return by the British to Beijing in 1997. Opponents warned the extradition bill could threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law and autonomy.
On Saturday, in a dramatic about-face, Lam said she was indefinitely suspending the controversial bill, though she did not take it off the table entirely. She also refused to resign, saying she hoped the public would “give us another chance.”
Protesters on Sunday ― who started gathering in the early afternoon and showed no signs of tiring even as night fell ― said Lam’s actions were inadequate.
“Carrie Lam refused to apologize yesterday. It’s unacceptable,” Catherine Cheung, a 16-year-old demonstrator, told Reuters. “She’s a terrible leader who is full of lies ... I think she’s only delaying the bill now to trick us into calming down.”
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The demonstrators wore black and carried white flowers in tribute to a protester who fell to his death on Saturday after hanging a banner protesting the extradition bill from a building near the legislature.
New York Times reporter Daniel Victor said many protesters also carried signs with slogans like “Don’t Kill Us” and “Stop Violence, We Are Not Rioters.”
Hong Kong police have come under scrutiny for their use of violence against demonstrators and journalists last week. Videos showed officers spraying tear gas directly into the faces of demonstrators, shooting them with rubber bullets and beating people with batons.