Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has claimed that the amendments are necessary to close legal loopholes, told the media that she took the move in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, the Associated Press reported.
"After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise," Lam said, according to the Associated Press. "I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind. We have no intention to set a deadline for this work."
The contentious bill raised concerns among critics that it would be used to undermine the city's civil liberties by making political activists and human rights activists subject to removal. Organizers said more than a million people had taken to the streets since demonstrators erupted on Sunday.
Lam said she would "adopt a sincere and humble attitude in accepting criticism" over the government’s handling of the issue.
On Wednesday, protesters surrounded the Legislative Council building, blocking lawmakers from meeting as scheduled to move the legislation toward a vote next week.
Lam, chosen by Beijing to be the highest-level local official, is caught between her Communist Party bosses and a public anxious to protect the liberties they enjoy as a former British colony. She was facing calls from both outside and within her government to delay the extradition legislation that has spurred the protests.
Some members of the Executive Council, Hong Kong’s cabinet, said she should perhaps rethink plans to rush the bills’ passage. A group of former senior government officials issued a public letter urging her not to force a confrontation by pushing ahead with the unpopular bills.
Hong Kong demonstrations: More protests as political pressure builds to delay or scrap extradition bill
Adding to tensions, the extradition bill has drawn criticism from U.S. and British lawmakers and human rights groups, prompting Beijing to lash back with warnings against “interference” in its internal affairs.
It is unclear how the local leadership might defuse the crisis, given Beijing’s strong support for the extradition bill and its distaste for dissent – and for foreign pressure.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hong Kong suspends controversial proposed bill allowing extraditions to China