Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam apologised to its people on Sunday as an estimated 1 million-plus black-clad protesters insisted that she resign over her handling of a bill that would allow citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Organisers said almost 2 million turned out on Sunday to demand that chief executive Carrie Lam step down in what is becoming the most significant challenge to China’s relationship with the territory since it was handed back by Britain 22 years ago.
Sunday’s demonstration came in spite of Carrie Lam indefinitely delaying – though not withdrawing – the bill on Saturday in a dramatic climbdown that threw into question her ability to continue to lead the city.
On Sunday, she apologised for the way the government had handled the draft law, which had been scheduled for debate last Wednesday, but gave no further insight into its fate.
Organisers pressed ahead with the protest to demand the bill’s full withdrawal, as well as to mark their anger at the way police handled a demonstration against it on Wednesday, when more than 70 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.
Some of Sunday’s marchers held signs saying, “Do not shoot, we are HongKonger.”
Police said the demonstration reached 3,38,000 at its peak. Organisers and police have routinely produced vastly different estimates at recent demonstrations.
Organisers estimated a protest the week before drew 1 million while police said 2,40,000.
“It’s much bigger today. Many more people,” said one protester who gave her name as Ms Wong. “I came today because of what happened on Wednesday, with the police violence.”
Loud cheers rang out when activists called through loud hailers for Lam’s resignation and the cry “step down” echoed through the streets.
“(An) apology is not enough,” said demonstrator Victor Li, 19.