Hundreds of mostly young people surrounded police headquarters in the city’s Wan Chai district Friday, after blocking several roads in the area and near government offices in Admiralty, where they had been staging a sit-in demanding the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, resign and officially withdraw the bill.
Taking a major role in Friday’s protests was Joshua Wong, the former Umbrella Movement who was this week released from prison.
Speaking to reporters, a police spokeswoman called on protesters to leave the area, but said a “clearance operation” was not planned.
“We respect the rights of the public to express their views in a peaceful manner,” she said, adding a negotiation team would meet with protesters in an attempt to get them to move on.
Lam issued a rare public apology Tuesday, saying she was “sincerely sorry” for the controversies around the bill, which has seen multiple major protests, including consecutive marches organizers said attracted more than 1 million and 2 million participants respectively.
“I have heard you loud and clear and have reflected deeply on all that has transpired,” she said. “The concerns over the last few months have been caused by the deficiencies of the (Hong Kong) government.”
She did not respond to demands to completely withdraw, rather than pause, the bill, however. Nor did she resign or call for an investigation into alleged police brutality during violent protests on June 12, other key protest demands.
Student and pro-democracy groups had given Lam until 5 p.m. Thursday to respond to those demands, saying they would stage further protests Friday if she did not. Those protests began with a peaceful sit in outside the legislature and central government offices, which have been closed to all business, before demonstrators escalated by seizing Harcourt Road.
Police presence is considerably smaller Friday than it was last week, when they used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear tens of thousands of protests from Harcourt and surrounding streets.
Multiple other events are planned Friday, including a memorial for a protester who fell to his death from the Pacific Place mall last week, and demonstrations by parent groups, as Hong Kong authorities brace for a summer of disruption and discontent over the failed bill.
CNN’s Jo Shelley and Caroline Kwok contributed reporting.