Despite City Executive Carrie Lam's major concession to the protest movement - that is, the (not really) 'indefinite' suspension of the extradition bill that catalyzed the protests - a planned protest march went ahead as scheduled on Sunday, marking the second consecutive Sunday of street protests in Hong Kong.
Though they celebrated the defeat of the extradition bill, many believe Lam was too slow to apologize for siding with Beijing and fast-trafficking legislation that, according Congress, would jeopardize Hong Kong's independence. Now, millions are demanding that she resign, and have vowed to continue marching until she is gone.
Demonstrators wearing black chanted and carried homemade signs. The crowds stretched for three miles from Admiralty to North Point, spilling out of the official route and choking major thoroughfares, once again paralyzing the city's financial center.
Protesters sang out the protests’ unofficial anthems, "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" and "Do You Hear the People Sing," from “Les Miserables,” Bloomberg reports.
A large group of protesters were singing “Do you hear the people sing?” along with other songs Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong. Tens of thousands of defiant citizens took to the streets again today calling for CE Carrie Lam to fully withdraw the controversial extradition bill 🇭🇰 pic.twitter.com/nonUDyaaET— Stella Ko (@ko_stelly) June 16, 2019
According to early estimates from the organizers, this week's protest was bigger than last week's, which drew more than one million marchers into the city's streets. Some said Sunday's march drew as many as 2 million people, according to BBG. If accurate, that means roughly one-quarter of the city's population joined the marches on Sunday.
Anti-extradition bill protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong for the second straight Sunday, calling for the bill to be scrapped altogether. pic.twitter.com/sxznHwAEuZ— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) June 16, 2019
Notably, the police presence was largely scaled back on Sunday following the clashes between protesters and cops that erupted on Wednesday.
Lam finally said 'sorry' to the people of Hong Kong six hours into Sunday's march - a full 24 hours after her original announcement to withdraw the bill. Cops once again tear gassed some marchers, but the overall mood was much less tense.
In a brief statement, Lam "pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public."
Here's Lam's full statement.
Over the past two Sundays, a large number of people have expressed their views during public processions. The Government understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong.
The Chief Executive clearly heard the views expressed in a peaceful and rational manner. She acknowledged that this embodied the spirit of Hong Kong as a civilised, free, open and pluralistic society that values mutual respect, harmony and diversity. The Government also respects and treasures these core values of Hong Kong.
Having regard to the strong and different views in society, the Government has suspended the legislative amendment exercise at the full Legislative Council with a view to restoring calmness in society as soon as possible and avoiding any injuries to any persons. The Government reiterated that there is no timetable for restarting the process.
The Chief Executive admitted that the deficiencies in the Government's work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people. The Chief Executive apologised to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.
As of 10 pm local time, more than seven hours after the march began, the tail of demonstrators was finally reaching Admiralty, where the city government's offices are located.
Wan Chai, Hong Kong, right now. Scores of anti #extradition protesters though it’s already 9.30pm. Five people I have talked to say they do not accept Carrie Lam’s (HK leader) apology @SCMPNews pic.twitter.com/QbSHR5tKwx— Phila Siu (Bobby) (@phila_siu) June 16, 2019
This protest is no longer just anti #extradition It’s about HKers coming out in solidarity; and to show what the Hong Kong spirit is all about: unity, the Lion Rock spirit @SCMPNews You can tell from the incessant chanting of “HK! Add oil!” pic.twitter.com/l4Ti3FCrNm— Phila Siu (Bobby) (@phila_siu) June 16, 2019
Meanwhile demonstrators and members of the political opposition, who widely see Lam as a puppet installed by Beijing, rejected her apology as insincere.
"Carrie Lam has no credibility, how can she reconcile with the public?" said Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who insisted Lam resign.
Entertainment industry worker Troy Lo, 24, also questioned why Lam took so long to apologize.
"Why is she only apologising now? If she was really apologetic, she would have said sorry yesterday," Lo said. "She must resign."
Savana Ho, a 25-year-old student, told BBG that "Hong Kong people are running out of ways and ideas to save their city," she said, explaining why she had come out to march. "The government is forcing citizens to just make any effort we can."
In Hong Kong, aerial footage shows thousands of protesters gathering to march in opposition to a controversial extradition bill. Many are dressed in black and wearing white ribbons on their chests: https://t.co/zbrvayAaKo pic.twitter.com/VytfOV7RdE— CNN International (@cnni) June 16, 2019
Just like with the other marches over the past week, as darkness fell, the protesters showed little signs of slowing down.
Some carried signs denouncing the police as 'shameless'.
The number at todays #Hongkong protest is big. Hard to tell on the ground how many but if Carrie Lam thought delaying the #extraditionbill would placate protestors, she was clearly wrong pic.twitter.com/B7lc07nwsw— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) June 16, 2019
Unfortunately for the city, which has faced massive disruptions over the past week due to the protests, it looks like Cam will remain in power - at least for now. She retains the full backing of Beijing, who released a statement endorsing the withdrawal of the extradition bill. With the marches set to drag on, the anti-extradition bill movement was on track to become the biggest protest movement since Hong Kong was handed back to China.