Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdraws extradition bill that sparked months of protests

Carrie Lam has been facing weeks of protests over the bill. Credit: AP

Hong Kong's under fire leader Carrie Lam has withdrawn a controversial extradition bill that sparked months of violent protests.

In a pre-recorded statement played on national TV, Ms Lam confirmed the bill was to be spiked.

It allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials and saw massive protests that have rocked the city since June.

Ms Lam said the government would not accept other demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police misconduct against protesters.

However, she named two new members to a police watchdog agency investigating the matter.

Protesters have also called for the release of those detained without charges, but Ms Lam said this was unacceptable.

She had suspended the Bill but protesters were demanding it be withdrawn entirely.

"The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in the TV message.

"Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law and to restore order and safety in society. As such, the government has to strictly enforce the law against all violent and illegal acts," she said.

Lam said it was clear that public frustration has gone far beyond the bill and that her government will seek a dialogue with aggrieved groups to "address the discontent in society and to look for solutions".

She said she will also invite community leaders, professionals and academics to examine deep-seated problems in the society and advise the government on solutions.

"Let's replace conflicts with conversations, and let's look for solutions," she said.

Protesters with umbrellas have become a symbol of the demonstrations. Credit: AP

The South China Morning Post cited an unidentified government source as saying the Bill would be withdrawn before the city’s legislature resumed in October.

Ms Lam has come under criticism for pushing the extradition Bill, which many in Hong Kong see as an example of the city’s eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Ms Lam said on Tuesday that the “one country, two systems” formula would be upheld. She also said at the news conference she had never tendered her resignation, responding to leaked audio of her telling business leaders recently that she would quit if she had a choice.

“I have never tendered a resignation to the central people’s government. I have not even contemplated to discuss a resignation … the choice of not resigning was my own choice,” Ms Lam said when asked why Beijing refused to let her quit.

“I know it is not going to be an easy path, and that’s why I have said that I have not given myself the choice to take an easier path and that is to leave.”

Carrie Lam's TV address is shown across TV sets in a store. Credit: AP

Ms Lam was elected as Hong Kong’s chief executive by a pro-Beijing committee of Hong Kong elites, and the mainland government has spoken in support of her government and the city’s police force throughout the protests.

Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent, with demonstrators throwing petrol bombs and rods at officers in protests last weekend. Authorities in turn have employed water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. More than 1,100 people have been detained.

The mostly young protesters say that a degree of violence is necessary to get the government’s attention after peaceful rallies were futile. Ms Lam’s administration says the violence must end before any dialogue can begin.

In Beijing, the mainland office responsible for Hong Kong slammed the escalating violence and warned that China will “not sit idly by” if the situation worsens.