The pro-democracy camp has asked Chief Executive Carrie Lam to retract the extradition bill, insisting that she should resign.
Lam announced on Saturday that the bill will be suspended, but not retracted, pending more consultation with the public.
“If you won’t retract the bill, we won’t retreat,” said Claudia Mo, convener of the democrats. Mo said Lam must withdraw her characterisation of Wednesday’s protest as a riot, and promise to not charge protesters.
On Wednesday, demonstrators occupied areas outside the legislature until police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets after frontline demonstrators threw objects.
“The maximum punishment of rioting is ten years,” Mo said.
In February, Hong Kong proposed legal amendments to allow it to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China. Plans were dropped amid a storm of criticism and a “million-strong” protest march last Sunday.
“Carrie Lam has lost all credibility among all Hong Kong people – she must step down,” Mo told reporters.
She said Lam was “shameful” as she used a Taiwan murder case as an excuse to suspend the legislation, whilst Taiwan said months ago it would not accept Hong Kong’s extradition request.
The government’s ill-fated plans were spurred by the case of Poon Hiu-wing, a pregnant 20-year-old Hong Kong woman who was killed during a trip to Taiwan last February. Her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai is now serving jail time for unrelated charges.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Lam failed to apologise for the level of violence used against protesters on Wednesday: “Hong Kong people cannot remain calm,” he said.
He added that Lam should take the blame for the clashes, as she made an “incorrect political decision.”
Protests to continue
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung said the social worker sector will still press on with its strike on Monday in protest.
Meanwhile, a march planned by Civil Human Rights Front on Sunday will proceed, despite the concession. The Front said it condemned the police for using lethal weapons and excessive force this week, and urged the government to withdraw their characterisation of Wednesday’s protests as a “riot”.
“We also demand that the government should release all [those] arrested… and do not prosecute them,” it said.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee, chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the government had failed to properly respond to Hong Kong people’s fears over the extradition bill. She also condemned the violent clashes on Wednesday.
“We will support the police fearlessly exercise their responsibility to maintain public order and protect residents,” she said. “The government must seek responsibility from troublemakers who broke laws.”
But she said suspending the bill will reduce the chance of more violent clashes: “It is better to stop and think, and to stop such confrontation.”
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