Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam (picture) sought to defuse protests that have rocked the city without stepping down or officially withdrawing a bill that would allow extraditions to China for the first time.
“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibilities,” Lam told reporters Tuesday, in her first public address since suspending the proposal on Saturday. “I offer my most sincere apologies to all people in Hong Kong.”
Protesters have vowed to keep hitting the streets until she resigns or withdraws the bill completely. Lam said she wouldn’t proceed with the bill unless all concerns could be addressed, and noted it’s “unlikely” that would happen during the current legislative session ending next year.
“I want another chance to work out the many initiatives that will help Hong Kong’s economy and to improve the lives of people,” she said, signaling she plans to finish out the final three years in her term. “I, myself, and my political team will work very hard to achieve these objectives and to meet the expectation of Hong Kong people.”
Lam has been under pressure after a historic protest on Sunday that protesters said drew around 2 million people. Still, China — her most important backer — said on Monday it continues to “firmly support” Lam and her government.
The government announced earlier in the day that roads near the Central Government Offices, which is next to Lam’s office, had “generally become accessible” and urged staff to return to work. The Executive Council that Lam oversees didn’t meet on Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing black flooded downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, prompting her to issue a statement apologizing for causing “substantial controversies and disputes in society.” Besides stepping down and withdrawing the bill, organizers want her to release all arrested demonstrators, stop calling the protests a “riot” and investigate police for excessive violence.