Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
It was one of the five demands put forward by the protesters.
"Too little, too late"
Many international headlines touted the development as a breakthrough, saying that people power worked, and succeeded in a victory for the protesters.
But the reaction to Lam's announcement was relatively more subdued in Hong Kong.
To many protesters, even though the announcement came as a surprise, they dismissed the move as being "too little, too late".
Carrie Lam has just announced the formal withdrawal of the Extradition Bill. #TooLittleTooLate.— Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong. 重光團隊 (@Stand_with_HK) September 4, 2019
Thousands of teargas rounds, multiple rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, pepper spray, baton hits. People have died, lost an eye, had bones broken, been whipped.#StandwithHK #antielab pic.twitter.com/lrnXHjC119
Many said the move was three months late, and that if it was announced earlier, the other four demands might not even have existed.
Three. Months. Late. If the withdrawal was made after the first massive march, the other four demands would not have existed.— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) September 4, 2019
Carrie Lam to announce formal withdrawal of the extradition bill, meeting at least one key demand of protesters #hongkongprotests https://t.co/ZthdCjWTo8
Why is it "too late"?
The protests, which started in June to oppose the passing of an extradition bill, gradually evolved to a broader call for greater political freedoms, such as universal suffrage.
A record 1 million people, as estimated by protests organisers, turned up for a march on June 9 to oppose the second reading of the bill scheduled on June 12.
However, Lam did not give in to their demand at that time, and insisted for the second reading to be resumed on June 12.
Protesters and riot police then clashed on the day itself, with the latter dispersing the crowds using tear gas, beanbag rounds, and rubber bullets.
Police also categorised the clashes as "riots".
Subsequently, the police were criticised for using excessive force, failing to display their identification numbers, allegedly assaulting reporters, and arresting people inside a hospital.
Since the June 12 clashes, protesters then started demanding for an independent inquiry to look into the police violence, and for the government to withdraw the "riot" categorisation.
This is why many say Lam's concession might have worked after June 9, but before June 12 when the situation escalated.
Hmmm, a lot of triumphant headlines in international media, but most HongKong protesters, including the more moderate ones, aren't going to accept #CarrieLam's offer. It's the one that would've worked after June 9th and before June 12th.— Yuen Chan (@xinwenxiaojie) September 4, 2019
But that was a mere three-day window, in a high-octane period where there was not clear indication how feisty and battle-hardened Hongkongers can become.
The four demands left to be met are as follows:
- Stop classifying the clashes between police and protesters as “riots”
- Drop charges against all arrested demonstrators
- Order an independent inquiry into the police use of force against protesters
- Relaunch the stalled electoral reform process (universal suffrage)
But many protesters remain unimpressed, questioning the body's independence and ability to punish the police for what they said was excessive force used to disperse the protesters, according to Inkstone News.
"5 demands, not one less"
Unlike international reports of Lam's concession as a victory for the protesters, Hongkongers are far from contented about the move.
‼️NO HONG KONG HAS NOT WON YET‼️— janee (@janehopper_) September 4, 2019
We have 5 demands, but now only one is being answered.
Throughout the #HongKongProtests , 8 of us committed suicide under the tyranny, 3 eyes were shot, more than 1000 ppl arrested and uncountable of us are hurt, wholy city suffered frm fear pic.twitter.com/YpYd3bcL83
On 04-09-2019, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam has officially announced to propose the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill. Meanwhile, she rejected the 4 other demands from protestors in Hong Kong.— Addd (@_lokjai_) September 4, 2019
Below are the 5 demands:#5DemandsNot1less pic.twitter.com/NuX6CUAuUC
Preliminary results of an online poll on Twitter show that more than 9,900 users (80 percent), out of 12,447 people who voted, would not accept anything less than the five demands.
These people who voted include the moderate voices and not just the "frontliners".
The ongoing protests are entering its 14th consecutive week this coming weekend.
Top image adapted via @janehopper & Chris McGrath/Getty Images