20 January 2020
June 12 clashes: Will an independent inquiry take a heavy toll on police morale? Photo: AFP
June 12 clashes: Will an independent inquiry take a heavy toll on police morale? Photo: AFP

Pro-establishment bloc rebuffed over probe of June 12 clashes

A number of former top government officials recently petitioned Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to establish an independent commission to look into the June 12 clashes, raising optimism that such an independent inquiry would be created.

However, sources said, more than 10 pro-establishment lawmakers had earlier met with Lam at the Government House in a meeting arranged by legislator Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convener of the pro-establishment bloc, in a bid to talk her into granting the demand, only to be rejected outright.

That meeting took place on the day following the adjournment of the Legislative Council meeting on June 19 due to a lack of quorum.

According to several sources who attended the closed-door meeting, at least eight pro-establishment lawmakers from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party, along with a few others representing functional constituencies, urged Lam to seriously consider opening an independent inquiry into the June 12 clashes. Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung was present in the meeting.

But during the meeting, the pro-establishment lawmakers were not actually unanimous in their demand for an independent commission of inquiry, the sources said.

For example, some lawmakers representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and some of those serving both as Executive and Legislative Councillors were against the idea.

According to two of the sources, the chief executive remained as defiant on this issue as ever, asserting that as long as she is in office, no independent commission will be set up to look into the clashes between police and protesters in Admiralty on June 12.

As a matter of fact, what members of the pro-establishment camp wanted was a broad and independent commission of inquiry, investigating with general directions including the causes and course of events of the June 12 clashes, whether it is the protesters or the police who first used force, the sources of supplies used by the protesters, etc.

The pro-establishment lawmakers believed that a broad and independent inquiry would allow the police to vindicate themselves; otherwise, it would be difficult to de-escalate the currently touch-and-go situation in society.

Yet even so, both Lam and the police chief were quoted by some attendees at that meeting as saying that no matter how broad the scope of the independent inquiry might be, the ultimate focus of the investigation would inevitably fall on the police, thereby taking a heavy toll on the morale of the law enforcement agencies.

Besides, the chief executive and the police chief argued that since public claims about alleged police brutality during the 2014 Occupy movement were handled under the existing complaints mechanism, the same mechanism should apply to the June 12 clashes as well.

It is said that apart from debating whether to launch an independent inquiry, a lawmaker also seized the opportunity and complained about the unrelenting oversight of his work by Beijing’s Liaison Office, such as calling him often to ask about his daily schedule and reminding him to attend Legco meetings.

According to some attendees, Lam replied that she has never asked the liaison office to help her secure votes in Legco, but she agreed to convey their message to the liaison office.

At the same time, the chief executive admitted that the government has failed in public relations with regard to the now-suspended extradition bill, and has failed to gauge the public pulse.

In his official blog on Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung pledged that the government would listen to the views of citizens from all walks of life and accept public criticisms with the most humble attitude in the coming days.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 1

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.