Hundreds of Hong Kongers gathered outside the city’s legislature on Monday to call for the resignation of chief executive Carrie Lam, as one of her top advisers declared there was “no chance” a controversial extradition bill that sparked huge protests in the city would be reintroduced.
The protest on Monday follows a mass demonstration on Sunday against the bill that prompted Ms Lam to apologise over her handling of the proposed law, which would for the first time allow criminal suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to China.
Organisers of Sunday’s rally claimed 2m joined the march, while police estimated the number of demonstrators at 338,000, in what was one of the biggest protests in the city since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“Almost a third of Hong Kong’s population came out against the extradition bill and the chief executive has not given a proper response,” said a woman at the city’s legislature who identified herself only as Christy. She said she had been out all night protesting. “Pausing the legislation is not what we want, we want the chief executive to cancel the proposal.”
Ms Lam announced on Saturday that she would suspend the bill indefinitely after insisting for months that she would push it through. Her U-turn came after a week of protests that erupted into violence last Wednesday when police used tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators in a rare use of force in the city.
But while Monday’s protests were small compared with previous days, democracy groups have vowed to continue pushing for a full withdrawal of the bill that they say could be abused by China to seize anyone passing through the territory on potentially trumped up charges. They also want Ms Lam’s resignation and for police to soften any charges that are brought against 11 protesters arrested on Wednesday.
Bernard Chan, Ms Lam’s most senior adviser, told Bloomberg that was “no chance the bill will be reintroduced”.
He added that the chief executive needs to “look after Hong Kong interests as well as the [China’s] interests. You can’t look at one and not the other.”
Mr Chan’s comments come after he said last week that it was “impossible” to continue pursuing the controversial bill against a backdrop of violent clashes between protesters and police, in what was the first public sign of a split among the city’s leadership over the issue.
The protests outside the Legislative Council came as Joshua Wong, a leader of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests — the last time mass demonstrations brought the city to a standstill — was released a month early from jail. At a press conference held outside the prison in which he was incarcerated, he joined calls for Ms Lam to resign and later tweeted that the bill should be withdrawn.
“I hope people are aware there’s a new fight after the Umbrella Movement,” he said.
Mr Wong has been in jail since May, after he lost an appeal against a contempt of court sentence for defying an order to clear a protest site during the pro-democracy rallies. His original three-month sentence was reduced to two months on appeal, citing his young age at the time — he turned 18 during the protests.
Mr Wong said there were about 20 activists still in prison in cases linked to pro-democracy protests, and he hoped there would be no more political prisoners in the territory.