Chief Executive Carrie Lam has personally apologised for the extradition law debacle but the postponed controversial bill will not be scrapped, despite a protest on Sunday attended by “two million” people. Lam, clad in all-white, said she has reflected deeply over the past few months.

“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society,” she told reporters at her first press conference in days. “For this, I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong.”

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“I have never spared any effort to serve the public, but this incident has made me realise that, as the chief executive, I still got much to learn and do in better balancing diverse interests, in listening more to all walks of life, in taking our society forward,” Lam added. “I truly hope that those injured can fully recover soon and that the rift in society could be quickly mended. Hong Kong is our home – it is only by walking together as one community and by staying closely connected that we can bring hope for Hong Kong.”

The city’s leader refused to resign, saying she wanted another chance to rebuild people’s trust in the government. She added that her work over the next three years will be difficult.

Hong Kong has seen the largest protests in its history amid government plans to update the city’s extradition laws to cover territories with which there are no prior agreements. Proposed in February in response to a Taiwan murder case, the since-postponed bill would allow case-by-case fugitive transfers to other jurisdictions – notably China – without legislative oversight.

The plan has prompted a chorus of criticism from democratslawyersjournalistsforeign politicians and businesses, who say the mainland lacks human rights protections.

See also: Anti-extradition protest organiser ‘disappointed’ by Hong Kong leader’s refusal to retract bill and resign

The government postponed the bill on Saturday until further notice. Lam, when asked if she was ignoring protesters’ demands, said that the suspension was her response.

Lam added she supports the police chief Stephen Lo’s statement saying the protests were largely peaceful and that only a minority were “rioting” – a term that could land participants in prison for up to 10 years under a colonial-era law.

‘Put aside disputes’

The Executive Council (ExCo) Secretariat issued a statement shortly after in support of the Chief Executive: “The ExCo non-official members will, in their best endeavours, assist the Chief Executive in the long-term interest of Hong Kong,” their statement read. “They also hope that the community can restore its calm and put aside disputes so that different sectors of the community and the government can once again focus on important economic and livelihood matters.”

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

People continued to occupy the space outside the city’s legislature on Tuesday.

Sisco Chan, a 21-year-old student, told HKFP that she did not accept Lam’s apology: “It’s bullshit,” she said. “I feel angry and like I’m hoping hope in Hong Kong. What else can we do now?”

Sisco Chan extradition
Sisco Chan. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Ms. Li, a 30-year-old social worker, also told HKFP she feels disappointed in the city’s leader: “She didn’t withdraw the bill or remove the term ‘riot’ to talk about the protest on Wednesday,” she said. “She says she’s sorry but where are here actions?”

“She has ruined [our] trust,” Li added. “The one thing she has achieved is united people from all levels of Hong Kong society, even my family. My mother in the past would never accept it when I went to protest but for this, she agrees with me.”

More to follow.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.