The Hong Kong leader bowed Wednesday to a key demand from protesters in favor of democracy after three months of unrest, announcing the withdrawal of a hated extradition bill, but activists promised to continue their campaign.
Millions of people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong since June in the biggest challenge to the semi-autonomous Hong Kong government since its delivery from the British in 1997.
After refusing for months to discard the bill, which aimed to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, executive director Carrie Lam finally admitted that she called for calm and the end of violent protests.
"The government will formally withdraw the bill to completely calm public concerns," he said.
Initial reports in local media announcing Lam's announcement raised hopes that giving in to the extradition demand could help end the crisis. The Hong Kong stock market rose almost four percent in afternoon trading after reports emerged.
But those hopes quickly eased, with pro-democratic activists who expressed anger and determination to continue their broader campaign of democracy.
"Too little, too late," prominent activist Joshua Wong said on Twitter.
Speaking later in Taipei, he said the protests would continue.
"Our determination and courage to fight for freedom will continue," said Wong, who was arrested late last week as part of a police attack on leading pro-democratic figures.
“Hong Kong people deserve universal suffrage. We deserve to choose our own government. "
The protests were triggered by opposition to Lam's extradition legislation, which was considered as another erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms compared to authoritarian mainland China.
After millions of people took to the streets, Lam suspended the bill backed by Beijing and called it "dead," but refused to formally withdraw it, generating fears that he could be resurrected.
As the fighting intensified, the movement became a broader campaign to include demands for an independent investigation into the alleged police brutality, an amnesty for those arrested and a retraction of classifying protesters as protesters.
Another demand was that Hong Kongers could directly choose their leaders, an important red line for Beijing.
Lam's Wednesday video message was noticeably more conciliatory in tone than his most recent statements.
"Let's replace conflicts with conversations and look for solutions," he said, and announced plans to appoint experts to advise "to independently examine and review the deep problems of society."
But he also repeated his reasons for rejecting the other four central demands, rejecting calls for independent investigation and saying that neither an amnesty, nor the retraction of the term "unrest" or immediate universal suffrage were feasible.
The online message forums used by the democratic movement largely without leaders were filled with furious comments that said the withdrawal of the bill would not put an end to the protests.
“Five great demands, not one less. Liberate HK, revolution now, "said a widely shared message in the Telegram messaging application.
"They have tried to close the barn door, but it has come too late," said political analyst Dixon Sing. AFP, adding only an independent investigation would begin to calm the "extremely high level of anger and injustice" between protesters and the general public.
Felix Chung, a pro-Beijing legislator, said many in his field favored an investigation, adding that Lam's retirement grant was "a bit too late, but better than ever."
For much of the last three months, Lam has given a challenging tone, since he does not seem willing or unable to make any concessions.
Then, this week, an audio recording of Lam emerged telling business leaders that Beijing had "limited" options, which considered the protests as a problem of national security and sovereignty.
In the audio recording, Lam said she wanted to resign and take responsibility for unleashing the riots with extradition plans, but that Beijing had hindered her.
"For an executive president having caused this great chaos to Hong Kong is unforgivable," said an emotional Lam in the audio recording, which was obtained by the Reuters news agency.
"If I have a choice," he said, speaking in English, "the first thing is to resign, to have made a deep apology." But after the recording was published, Lam held a press conference on Tuesday to insist that he had never contemplated resigning
While Wednesday's video message called for calm, he also reminded protesters that defying Beijing's authority was putting Hong Kong in a "vulnerable and dangerous" position.
"Our top priority now is to end violence, safeguard the rule of law and restore order and security in society," he warned.