The embattled leader of Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has formally withdrawn a divisive bill that sparked the worst political crisis the Chinese enclave has seen in decades.
“The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns,” Lam said in a video address Wednesday evening after a closed-door meeting with pro-government lawmakers.
The contentious legislation would have allowed the extradition of fugitives to mainland China where the murky court system operates under the influence of the Communist Party. Fully withdrawing the bill has been one of the key demands of the protest movement that has rocked the city for more than 13 consecutive weeks.
In June, after popular backlash to the proposed legislation prompted 2 million people to march in the streets according to organizers’ estimates, Lam declared work on the bill suspended. But her announcement, and later insistence that the bill was “dead,” did little to mollify the angry crowds, as many feared the measure could be revived at a later date.
When news of Lam’s intention to formally withdraw the bill broke Wednesday, Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index jumped 3.73 percent, but critics rejected her concessions.
“Too little and too late now,” democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted.
Since the protests kicked off, the movement has swelled to encompass a greater number of demands, including an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality and direct elections for the city’s leaders.
Replying to the public’s “five demands,” Lam continued to insist her administration has “in fact responded.”
“I recognize that these may not be able to address all the grievances of people in society,” she said, before presenting “four actions” to form the basis of a dialogue with the public, including agreeing to the formal withdrawal of the bill.
But she stopped short of announcing a full, independent inquiry into the police’s response to the protests. The escalating use of force, frequent salvos of tear gas in residential neighborhoods and mass arrests—announced at 1,183 Wednesday—have contributed to hardening resentments against a police force that previously enjoyed a good deal of public trust.
Lam has steadfastly defended the police, and resisted calls for an independent accountability measure.
Democratic legislator Claudia Mo agreed that Lam’s gesture is “too little too late.”
“She has created such havoc, a word she’s used herself, and the damage is done,” Mo tells TIME. “I think the protestors will just carry on with their quest for democracy and human rights.”
The demonstrations, which have increasingly turned violent with protesters at various times ransacking the legislature, shutting down the city’s airport, besieging police headquarters and turning Hong Kong’s normally bustling retail and entertainment districts into battle fields, have snowballed far beyond the extradition bill. The rebellion against Lam’s administration has become an all-out push for greater democracy, with many demanding self-determination or even independence from Beijing.
Samson Yuen, assistant professor of political science at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, tells TIME that the bill’s withdrawal “will take some steam, some violence off the streets, but it won’t take people off the streets. In the medium term, protests will still continue, mainly because the protesters’ focus has broadened.”
—With reporting by Hillary Leung and Aria Hangyu Chen / Hong Kong