The Latest: Hong Kong activists appeal for German support

HONG KONG — The Latest on protests in Hong Kong (all times local):

9 p.m.

Hong Kong activists are appealing to Angela Merkel for support ahead of the German chancellor's trip to China this week.

Merkel's spokesman said Wednesday that the government had "taken note" of an open letter sent by prominent pro-democracy youth activist Joshua Wong, extracts of which were published by the daily Bild.

But the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, refused to be drawn on whether Merkel would push the issue during her three-day trip, which starts Thursday.

Seibert noted that Merkel had previously called for dialogue and a peaceful solution on the basis of Hong Kong laws.

Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron said "rule of law is an important basis for (Germany's) trade relations. That's true for all countries and of course also for China."

China is one of Germany's biggest trading partners.

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5:50 p.m.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the government will formally withdraw an extradition bill that has sparked months of demonstrations in the city, bowing to one of the protesters' demands.

The bill would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials. It sparked massive protests that have become increasingly violent and caused the airport to shut down earlier this month.

But Lam said in a pre-recorded television message on Wednesday that the government would not accept other demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police misconduct against protesters. However, she named two new members to a police watchdog agency investigating the matter.

Protesters have also called for the release of those detained without charges, but Lam said this was unacceptable.

A lawmaker said the withdrawal of the bill was too little, too late.

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5:30 p.m.

Hong Kong's government met Wednesday afternoon amid speculation that leader Carrie Lam will formally withdraw an extradition bill as protesters have demanded.

Local broadcaster TVB said television stations had been told to be on standby to air a pre-recorded announcement by Lam at 6 p.m. (1000 GMT).

The bill allowing Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials sparked massive protests that have rocked the city since June. Lam has suspended the bill, but protesters want it entirely withdrawn. They also want democratic reforms to Hong Kong's government and an independent inquiry into police actions against protesters.

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