Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said Thursday that China "understands, respects and supports" her government's move to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked three months of pro-democracy protests.
Lam told reporters the most important focus now is on stopping what have become increasingly violent protests and restoring peace to Hong Kong. She said she hopes those taking part in the demonstrations understand that violence is affecting the city and the daily lives of its citizens.
Lam discussed other measures she hopes will allow for dialogue about sources of discontent in Hong Kong, but showed no sign of agreeing to all of the demands set out by protesters.
They originally took to the streets in June in peaceful demonstrations seeking the withdrawal of the extradition bill, which would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
Four other main demands have become entrenched in the protest movement, including an independent investigation of police brutality against protesters, unconditional release of detainees, not defining the protests as "riots," and allowing the people of Hong Kong to choose their own leaders.
Demonstrators said Lam's move to withdraw the extradition bill amounts to too little, too late. More demonstrations are planned for Saturday.
The protests have brought everyday life in the Asian financial hub to a near halt, with protesters disrupting activities at the city's subway system and airport. Hundreds, if not thousands of protesters have been arrested after clashes with police wielding batons and firing tear gas and water cannons.
She said she doesn't know how long it will take to end the civil disobedience, but that she remains confident of restoring law and order. She dismissed speculation that Beijing is anxious to resolve the crisis by Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.