Protesters in Hong Kong have vowed to return to the streets until all five of their demands are met, after an extradition bill responsible for months of protests was withdrawn.
Withdrawal of the bill met one of the protesters’ key demands, but activists have vowed to continue demonstrating until the government fulfils all of them.
They have also requested an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, the unconditional release of all demonstrators, retracting labelling the protests “riots” and allowing the people of Hong Kong to choose their own leaders.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, said the decision to withdraw the bill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory was her own government’s initiative to break the deadlock, not Beijing’s directive.
However, Ms Lam said the government cannot accede to the protesters’ other demands.
Massive but peaceful demonstrations began in June against the extradition legislation, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Clashes with police have become increasingly violent as the demands evolved into a wider call for democracy.
Demonstrators threw petrol bombs at officers last weekend and police retaliated with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. Nearly 1,200 people have been detained so far.
Dozens of protesters took to the streets overnight after the withdrawal of the bill was announced, shouting: “Five key demands, not one less.”
Local media reported that protesters built barriers near a police station at Mong Kok and pointed laser beams at police but fled after riot police confronted them.
Students also reportedly staged protests outside some schools Thursday, forming human chains across streets to show their support for those detained by the government.
More protests are planned for the weekend, including another one at the airport. The airport has been the site of several protests, causing flight disruptions and cancellations, as protesters seek to drum up international support.
The mostly young protesters say a degree of violence is necessary to get the government’s attention after peaceful rallies were futile. Chinese officials have warned that Beijing will “not sit idly by” if the situation worsens.
Ms Lam also announced other measures including opening a platform for dialogue with society to try to address other deep-rooted economic, social and political problems, including housing and mobility for young people, that she said were contributing to the current impasse.
“We must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions,” she said.
In response to the demonstrators’ demands for an independent inquiry, Ms Lam said the independent police complains council was credible enough to address the probe.
The announcement came after it was revealed Beijing had thwarted Ms Lam’s earlier proposals to withdraw the bill and she had said privately she would resign if she could, according to a leaked audio recording.
The protests are the biggest popular challenge to Chinese president Xi Jinping’s rule since he took power in 2012. China denies meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs and accuses Western countries of fuelling the unrest.
Additional reporting by agencies
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