Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday insisted the decision to withdraw the controversial extradition bill that sparked months of tense protests was her government’s decision, not that of the central Chinese government.
Lam told a news conference the decision was aimed at breaking the impasse after what began as massive peaceful demonstrations against the bill -- which would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trials--took a turn toward violence. She added that Beijing has backed her government through the whole process.
"The decision is one of Hong Kong's...government," she said. "Throughout the whole process, the central people's government took the position that they understood why we have to do it. They respect my view, and they support me all the way."
Lam confirmed that withdrawing the bill won’t require any voting or debate when it goes before the Legislative Council next month.
The bill was suspended when demonstrations began in June, but protesters wanted it entirely withdrawn.
Lam announced the bill’s formal withdrawal Tuesday following weekend protests where demonstrators threw gasoline bombs at officers and police retaliated with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons.
The decision, widely seen as a bid to halt the unrest that could embarrass China during its National Day celebrations on Oct. 1, has been slammed as "too little, too late" by both government supporters and demonstrators.
The withdrawal of the bill is just one of protesters’ five key demands, which also include an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, the unconditional release of those detained, not labeling the protests as riots, and direct elections of the city's leader.
As the prolonged protests sparked fears of a military intervention by China, hurt businesses in Hong Kong and led to a plunge in tourism, Lam has held firm that Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula would be upheld.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.