21 October 2018
Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok (inset) has described the Mong Kok clashes as the "most violent" since Hong Kong's return to China in 1997. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ
Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok (inset) has described the Mong Kok clashes as the "most violent" since Hong Kong's return to China in 1997. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

Pan-democrats fail in bid for independent Mong Kok clash probe

A motion by pan-democratic lawmakers to set up an independent committee comprised of judges to look into last week’s clashes between protesters and police was voted down at the LegCo Tuesday.

At a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s panel on security Tuesday, Leung Kwok-hung, a radical lawmaker from the League of Social Democrats, filed a motion for an independent probe into the Mong Kok clashes and received support from several pan-democratic lawmakers.

However, lawmakers from the establishment camp rejected the proposal, leading to the motion’s defeat by a wide margin, Apple Daily reported. 

Leung’s motion came after nearly 30 academics and professionals launched an online campaign on Sunday calling for an independent committee to probe the Feb. 8-9 incidents.

An independent commission is needed as the government is adopting a biased stance over what it calls a “riot”, the academics said.

The online campaign quickly gained 1,200 signatures, but it was met with a thumbs-down from pro-establishment lawmakers.

Wong Kwok-hing, a lawmaker from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, condemned the pan-democrats for trying to rationalize violence by blaming the incident on governance issues.

Meanwhile, a motion filed by Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) — a pro-Beijing group — to support serious law enforcement by the police and to enhance the force’s equipment was passed by the LegCo panel.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told the panel that there were more than 700 people on 14 streets in Mong Kok area on the night of Feb. 8.

Fires were set in 22 different locations by the protesters, and 2,000 bricks were dug out of 110 square meters of pavement, the official said.

Describing the incident as the “most violent” since Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, Lai said there was “a small group of rioters masking themselves during the planned riot in Mong Kok” who sought to “hide their identities”.

The incident cannot be diluted through debates on governance issues and hawker problems, he said, accusing some people of trying to switch the focus.

Cyn Ho from Labor Party said the government should rethink the reasons behind the clashes and why the protesters were not deterred even though the police fired two warning shots into the air.

Police Director of Operations Alan Lau Yip-shing said his department is reviewing its performance during the incident, including manpower deployment, tactics and equipment.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday that the rioters’ actions do not represent society and young people as a whole, and that a police probe and court hearing will reveal the truth behind the incident.

On Tuesday, the police arrested two young men who were suspected of taking part in the clashes, taking the total arrests to 67.

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