July 8 (UPI) -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared an extradition law that has caused mass protests throughout the island "dead" Tuesday, while protesters vowed to continue with demonstrations.
"I have almost immediately put a stop to the [bill] amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity, or worries, whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead," she said in a press conference.
Though it is unclear if the bill has been fully withdrawn, Lam's statement is the strongest yet on the fate of the bill following her comment last week when she stated that the bill would expire, or "will die," in July 2020 with the ushering in of a new council.
The bill, which would see some fugitives from Beijing law extradited to the mainland to face courts there, has been met with fierce opposition in Hong Kong, resulting in mass protests of millions demanding the bill be rescinded as protesters see it as a further degrading of their freedoms to China.
Protesters in Hong Kong, which is granted freedoms separate from mainland China under the so-called One Country, Two Systems principle, have continued demonstrating despite Lam indefinitely shelving the bill June 15 as the movement has enveloped greater pro-democracy demands, including her resignation.
On July 1, the former British colony's 22nd anniversary of return to Chinese rule, protesters stormed the Legislative Council, spraypainting pro-democracy slogans on the walls and defacing hanging portraits, among other vandalism.
Along with the rescinding of the bill and her resignation, protesters have demanded an independent investigation into police conduct against protesters and for the government to retract its description of a protest on June 12 as a riot.
On Tuesday, the island's chief executive said the Independent Police Complaints Council would be launching an investigation but that the government never described the protest as a riot.
"We have not given a label to what took place [June 12]," she said.
Hong Kong will also not be granting amnesty to protesters charged during the incident nor will it cease ongoing investigations, as protesters have demanded, as it would undermine the island's rule of law, she said.
She said Hong Kong witnessed two different situations due to protesters: peaceful protests by hundreds of thousands and violence committed by a small minority.
"So, I make a very sincere plea here in the future if anyone in Hong Kong has any different views, especially those about Hong Kong government's policies, please continue to uphold the value of expressing it in a peaceful and orderly manner," she said.
She then asked for time for the government to extract Hong Kong from its current impasse and improve the situation.
Lam's statement was met with swift criticism from protest group The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized many of the mass protests that have rocked the island in the past month, for not offering a formal declaration that the bill had been squashed, Hong Kong Free Press reported.
"We cannot find the word 'dead' in any laws in Hong Kong, or any legal proceedings at the Legislative Council," CHRF's vice convenor Bonnie Leung said.
The organization also said Lam was applying a double standard by stating she can't offer amnesty to protesters due to protecting the rule of law while shielding police officers who abused their power during the protests from repercussions.
Activist group Demosisto said Lam's claim that the bill is dead is a "ridiculous lie" because the bill lives in the legislature until next July.
In a seven-tweet thread, the group's secretary general, Joshua Wong, said the proper way for Lam to kill the bill would be to invoke article 64 of the Rules and Procedures, which would formally revoke the extradition law.
"Today, she has still refused to promise a formal 'withdrawal' despite public outcry," he said.
CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham said more protests will be planned, the details for which will be released at a later date. Meanwhile, a public march has been planned for Sunday in the city of Shatin, about 11 miles north of Hong Kong Island where the Legislative Council is located.
Protesters rally against extradition bill in Hong Kong