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Hong Kong leader: China backs extradition bill withdrawal

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, speaks during a news conference on July 2
Carrie Lam. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The Chinese government "understands, respects and supports" the withdrawal of Hong Kong's controversial extradition bill, the city's embattled leader Carrie Lam told a news conference on Thursday.

Why it matters: Lam's announcement Wednesday that she was formally withdrawing the bill that would have seen citizens extradited to mainland China was a key demand of protesters. The proposed bill triggered weeks of massive protests in the Chinese-controlled territory, and the Asian financial hub has since been plunged into crisis as the demonstrations developed into a broader pro-democracy movement.

  • Unrest in Hong Kong has grown since the protests began in June, and violent clashes between police and protesters have become more frequent.

The big picture: Protesters are concerned about losing the high degree of autonomy Hong Kongers have had since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. The Chinese government has ramped up its rhetoric in recent weeks, comparing protesters to terrorists on several occasions.

  • Lam has repeatedly resisted protesters' calls for her to step down over her handling of the crisis. In July, she declared the extradition bill "dead," but protesters noted she did not formally withdraw it.
  • Per the Wall Street Journal, activists' additional demands include an inquiry into the Hong Kong Police Force’s handling of the demonstrations and calls for greater democracy, which have angered the Chinese government.
  • Lam announced other measures along with the bill's withdrawal, such as opening a platform for dialogue to address other issues including housing and mobility for young people.

What they're saying: The announcement is seen as too little, too late by protesters. Protest leaders including student activist Joshua Wong say that many key demands had still not been met.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper: Hong Kong's people stand up to China