Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the controversial bill that would have allowed extradition to the Chinese mainland "is dead".
In a press conference on Tuesday, Ms Lam said the government's work on the bill had been a "total failure".
But she stopped short of saying it had been withdrawn completely, as protesters have been demanding.
The bill sparked weeks of unrest in the city and the government had already suspended it indefinitely.
"But there are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council," Ms Lam told reporters.
"So I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead."
Carrie Lam's statement certainly sounds emphatic, especially in English. "The bill is dead" doesn't leave much room for quibbling. But she has stopped short of the protesters actual demand - that the widely reviled extradition bill be immediately withdrawn.
Instead she is committing herself to allowing the bill to remain in limbo until the current legislatives session ends - and then it will die by default.
The aim appears clear. The huge street protests in Hong Kong have now continued for a month. On Sunday more than 100,000 people took to the streets again. Even the leaders of pro-Beijing political parties have started to question the fitness of Ms Lam's administration, and the ineptitude of her response.
So Ms Lam has again been forced to back down, and to admit that her government's attempt to pass the extradition bill has been a "complete failure". The question now is will it be enough.
"The bill is dead is a political description and it is not legislative language," Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung told the BBC, adding that the bill is still in the process of second reading technically.
"We have no idea why the chief executive refuses to adopt the word withdraw," he added.
One of the leading figures of the protest movement, student activist Joshua Wong, reiterated the demand for the bill to be "formally withdrawn" and accused Ms Lam of using wordplay to "lie to the people of Hong Kong".