Aside from the withdrawal of extradition bill and an independent inquiry into the use of unnecessary police force, the demonstrators had also demanded amnesty for arrested protesters, a halt to categorising the protests as riots; and the implementation of universal suffrage.
It was described as a bombshell decision. Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in a five-minute television address said her government would formally withdraw the controversial extradition bill that ignited months of demonstrations to “fully allay public concerns”.
Lam finally acceded to one of the protesters’ five demands.
In her televised announcement, Lam addressed, but did not fully agree to another key demand – the setting up of an independent inquiry into the use of unnecessary force by police. Instead, she said she would invite community leaders and professionals to examine the problems in society.
Aside from the withdrawal of extradition bill, the demonstrators had also demanded amnesty for arrested protesters, a halt to categorising the protests as riots; and the implementation of universal suffrage.
Lam will meet media for the first time on Thursday morning (Hong Kong time) to explain her decisions, before she leaves for Nanning in Guangxi, China, for an annual regional cooperation conference – her second official trip outside the city since the protests began on 9 June.
Lam met 19 senior city leaders and politicians at her home on August 24 to brainstorm ways to broker a dialogue with those behind the anti-government protests crippling the city, a financial capital.
Most told her she should address protesters’ top two demands – a full withdrawal of the then-shelved extradition bill and the launch of an independent inquiry into the protests, including police use of force, South China Morning Post reported.
She then held a closed-door meeting two days later with about 20 young people, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
“The voices of young people whom the chief executive consulted on the withdrawal of the bill were particularly vocal,” a source told the South China Morning Post. They also urged her to meet that and the other top demand for a commission of inquiry.
LIHKG, the Reddit-like site which has been the de facto virtual command centre of the protest movement, was flooded with messages saying: “Five key demands, not one less.”
On Wednesday, Lam said the government would withdraw the bill. Her announcement came after police fired more than 2,350 canisters of tear gas, hundreds of beanbag rounds and sponge grenades, the arrests of 1,183 people and a number of suicides said to be related to the unrest.
Many went on social media and shared a line from Winter on Fire, a documentary on the 2014 Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine: “Our friends that we have lost would never forgive us if we accepted those terms from the government.”
Bernard Chan, convenor of Lam’s cabinet, the Executive Council, also said he did not expect everything would return to normal overnight.
“But I hope gradually the number of peaceful protesters going on the street will be reduced. It might still take months,” he said.
Lam’s actions are also understood to try and ensure that the November’s district council elections go ahead without tension.
After Lam’s address, protests continued outside Mong Kok police station as anger over police conduct continued.