Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday apologised for her handling of a controversial bill that would have allowed the city to extradite criminal suspects to China.
"I have heard you loud and clear and have reflected deeply on all that has transpired. The concerns over the past few months have been caused by deficiencies in the work of the government over the amendment exercise," Lam told a packed room of reporters.
"I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This had led to controversy. For this, I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong."
But Lam came short of withdrawing the legislation, despite the demands of 2 million protesters who marched on Sunday, according to protest organiser estimates.
Lam suspended the bill on Saturday but protesters said there was no guarantee that she would not push forward with it once the political storm had died down. A day later, when Lam issued her first short public apology – in the third person – her words were poorly received by the Hong Kong public.
Exasperation at the extradition bill has united Hong Kong in a way not seen since the 2014 pro-democracy protests, as many feared it was a sign the city was losing its autonomy to China.
Many Hongkongers have said they fear China's legal system, which has a reputation for a high conviction rate, political prosecutions, forced disappearances and indefinite detention. Hong Kong, by contrast, has one of the most respected legal systems in Asia.
The protest organisers, The Civil Human Rights Front, and other aligned groups rejected Lam's apology, saying they stood by their demands for the bill to be completely withdrawn. They also demanded that Lam resigned, that no protesters are prosecuted, and accountability for what they deemed was excessive force used by police at the rally last Wednesday.