Protesters demand that embattled Hong Kong leader resign

In this image from video and taken with a drone, protesters fill the Hennesy Road in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.(Cable TV Hong Kong via AP)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_82694 Protesters clean up the main road near the Legislative Council after tens of thousands of protesters staged a massive protest against an extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong have begun leaving the streets and gathering near the city's government headquarters. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
In this image from video and taken with a drone, a crowd of protesters march after leaving Victoria Park in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.(Cable TV Hong Kong via AP)
A protester cleans up the main road near the Legislative Council after tens of thousands of protesters staged a massive protest against an extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong have begun leaving the streets and gathering near the city's government headquarters. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
In this image from video and taken with a drone, a crowd of protesters gather at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.(Cable TV Hong Kong via AP)
A woman holds a British flag as protesters camped out overnight along a main road near the Legislative Council after continuing their protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night before. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Protesters who camped out overnight take a rest along a main road near the Legislative Council after continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night before. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_10216 Protesters hold a poster as they chant slogans near the Legislative Council as they continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_40131 Protesters gather near the Legislative Council as they continue to protest against the unpopular extradition bill, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Hong Kong. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Dissident_Release_27376 Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaks to reporters after meeting with protesters near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Wong, a leading figure in Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations, was released from prison on Monday and vowed to soon join the latest round of protests. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_16467 Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaks to protesters near the Legislative Council following a massive protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Wong, was released from prison Monday after serving half of a two-month jail sentence for contempt. He headed to join protesters gathered near Hong Kong's government headquarters soon afterward, and also called in a tweet for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign and for a halt to "all political persecutions." (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
APTOPIX_Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_02330 Protesters take a rest near the Legislative Council after staged a massive protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong have left the streets, averting possible clashes with police by moving to areas near the city's government headquarters. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_99169 Protesters wearing masks gather near the Legislative Council as they continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters hold a banner during a march toward the Legislative Council as they continue to protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police announced that they want to clear the streets of protesters Monday morning. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Policemen stand guard on a road as protesters march toward the Legislative Council after they continue to protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police announced that they want to clear the streets of protesters Monday morning. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A man walks alone on a empty road near the Legislative Council after protesters continue to protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police announced that they want to clear the streets of protesters Monday morning. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Protesters light candles as they continue a protest overnight near the Legislative Council into the early hours of Monday, June 17, 2019, in Hong Kong. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
APTOPIX_Hong_Kong_Dissident_Release_92987 Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, right, is accompanied by Nathan Law as they pay respect to a protester who fell to his death after hanging a protest banner against an extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Wong, a leading figure in Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations, was released from prison on Monday and vowed to soon join the latest round of protests. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A police cone lay on its side as protesters continue a protest overnight near the Legislative Council into the early hours of Monday, June 17, 2019 in Hong Kong. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A woman arranges the notes written by protesters placed next to the flowers on a pavement after tens of thousands of protesters continue staged a massive protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong left the streets, averting possible clashes Monday after haggling for hours with police by moving to areas near the city's government headquarters.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters light candles as they continue a protest overnight near the Legislative Council into the early hours of Monday, June 17, 2019 in Hong Kong. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Commuters walk past posters and flowers placed next to a bus stand after tens of thousands of protesters staged a massive protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong left the streets, averting possible clashes Monday after haggling for hours with police by moving to areas near the city's government headquarters.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_08562 Protesters rest on the streets as they continue a protest overnight near the Legislative Council into the early hours of Monday, June 17, 2019 in Hong Kong. Hong Kong citizens marched for hours Sunday in a massive protest that drew a late-in-the-day apology from the city's top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Policemen remove the barriers out of the main road near the Legislative Council after protesters continue to protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. Hong Kong police announced that they want to clear the streets of protesters Monday morning. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_93313 Protesters gather behind police line calling Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down as they continue protest against the unpopular extradition bill near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_98469 Policemen stand guard in the rain as protesters gather near the Legislative Council continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong_Kong_Extradition_Law_82467 A protester, center, calls Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down as she and others continue protest against the unpopular extradition bill near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. A member of Hong Kong's Executive Council says the city's leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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HONG KONG (AP) — Demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered Monday outside the office of the city’s leader, demanding that she step down in the crisis over a highly unpopular extradition bill that has tested the durability of China’s promises to respect the former British colony’s quasi-autonomy.

The mostly young protesters blocked a street near the city’s waterfront as they stood outside the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam chanting calls for her to cancel the proposed legislation.

As night fell, protest leaders debated their next steps. Some wanted to set a deadline for a meeting with Lam. Others decided to head home.

Nearly 2 million Hong Kong residents, young and old, joined a march on Sunday that lasted late into the night to express their frustrations with Lam and the extradition bill, backed by Beijing. Many stayed on afterward.

Protesters blocked some downtown roads well into Monday morning, but gradually yielded to police requests to reopen roads, moving to areas near the city’s government headquarters. The protest revived after Joshua Wong, a prominent activist leader, rallied the crowd after his release from prison later Monday.

The activists have rejected apologies from Lam for her handling of the legislation, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. She announced that work on the bill would be suspended after large protests last week, but the legislation has touched a nerve not easily soothed in a city anxious over the increasingly authoritarian Communist rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We are very angry that Carrie Lam has not responded to the demands of all the protesters, but now is the time to talk about strategy, and talk about strategy is about how to make the whole struggle into a long-term struggle and not a day struggle, so if Carrie Lam does not respond to the demands by the protesters, people will come back and the struggle will continue,” Lee Cheuk-yan, a former legislator and activist, said Monday.

The uproar over the extradition bill highlights worries that the former British colony is losing the special autonomous status China promised it when it took control in 1997.

On June 9, a week earlier, as many as 1 million people demonstrated to express their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China.

The scenes are similar to those in 2014, when protesters camped for weeks in the streets to protest rules that prevented the direct election of the city’s chief executive.

Wong, who was imprisoned for his role in the 2014 demonstrations and sit-ins, dubbed the “Umbrella Movement,” was released from prison on Monday after serving half of a two-month sentence on a contempt charge. He soon swapped his white shirt for one that was black — the color of this year’s protests — and joined the fray.

“After the end of the Umbrella Movement we claimed we would be back. Finally five years later we did it,” Wong said.

“It’s lucky that Beijing and Carrie Lam transformed a whole generation of youngsters from normal citizens to dissidents. That’s the price that Beijing must pay,” Wong said.

One concern over the extradition bill is that it might be used to send critics of Communist Party rule to the mainland to face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.

It’s seen as one of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy.

Lam insists the legislation is needed for Hong Kong to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. It would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.

So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over the judicial independence of its courts and its human rights record.

The vast majority of Hong Kong residents fled persecution, political chaos or famine in the Chinese mainland. They value stability and but also cherish freedoms of dissent and legal protections not allowed Chinese living across the border.

Many Hong Kong residents also were angered over the police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government’s headquarters during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Lam’s decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.

The city’s police commissioner, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, said late Monday that only those found to have committed violent acts would be charged with rioting, in an apparent attempt to appease the anger.

Although he also described the fracas as a riot, he said only five of 15 arrested people were accused of rioting, which can result in a prison term of up to 10 years. Another 17 people were arrested in the vicinity on lesser charges, he said.

The protesters have mainly focused their ire toward Lam, who has little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing. She has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last week’s clashes.

Many here believe Hong Kong’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence that it is still honoring its promise, dubbed “one country, two systems,” that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover from Britain in 1997.

Prosecutions of activists, detentions without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.

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Associated Press journalists Alice Fung, Nadia Lam, Raf Wober, Borg Wong and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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