'Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has been forced into a humiliating concession after a week of mass protests, promising to indefinitely suspend efforts to pass a controversial new extradition law ahead of another demonstration that has been called for Sunday.
Lam’s announcement represented perhaps the most serious government climbdown in the face of public pressure since a security law was dropped in 2003, an important democratic moment for a city where people are free to demonstrate but not able to choose their leaders.
However, opponents warned they saw it more as a tactical retreat than an admission of defeat, aimed at buying time to intimidate or demoralise opponents. There have already been reports of arrests in hospitals, as people sought treatment, and of digital activists.
“You can say it was a partial victory, in the sense she has halted this bill at this moment,” said the opposition lawmaker Charles Mok.
“We are not celebrating. Many of us were still not satisfied that she hasn’t withdrawn it completely, and the way she talked about police [brutality].”
He joined other activists and critics in urging residents to take to the streets again on Sunday to keep up pressure on the government and chief executive. Lam has proved a lightening rod for protesters, with many demanding her resignation.
In a combative press conference after three days of silence, Lam repeatedly described herself as “heartbroken”, and admitted that the bill had “caused a lot of division” in Hong Kong.
But she insisted her only errors were of communication, defended the law as vital to security and promised to relaunch an improved version after further consultation She also played down the size of demonstrations and repeatedly defended police use of force as defensive.
Earlier in the week she added fuel to public anger, when she doubled down on support for the law, and criticised protesters who had endured a day of teargas, rubber bullets and police beatings as “spoiled children”.'
Read more: Hong Kong leader suspends extradition bill amid protest pressure
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