3 in 5 Hongkongers want Carrie Lam’s government to form inquiry into police force on protesters before holding another public dialogue, poll finds

Kathleen Magramo

More than 60 per cent of Hongkongers believe the government should form a commission of inquiry into the use of police force on protesters before holding future talks with residents, according to a poll by a think tank to assess public attitudes towards the chief executive’s first community dialogue.

The survey, conducted by youth-oriented organisation MWYO, found that about three in four out of 701 respondents were critical of the effectiveness of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s first – and so far, only – public dialogue, which took place two months ago.

Lam had held the consultation on September 26 to understand the concerns of residents and discuss ways to ease anti-government protests, sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, that have rocked the city for months.

Some 76.2 per cent of those polled said the dialogue was “ineffective” or “very ineffective” in easing social tensions, while 63.8 per cent said the authorities had to meet the demand by demonstrators to form an independent commission of inquiry into the use of police force during the protests.

Lam’s public dialogue saw 130 people selected at random to participate in the event, which had attracted applications from more than 20,000 Hong Kong residents. However, only 30 participants had a chance to air their views with the chief executive. About half of those who spoke in the three-hour session urged Lam to establish an independent inquiry into the use of police force.

MWYO’s poll, carried out between November 6 and 9, found that two in five respondents believed a community dialogue would only be successful if the government addressed all five demands by protesters, including universal suffrage for Hong Kong.

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About one in three respondents said they would prefer to engage in community talks initiated by “credible community leaders”, while 21.1 per cent said the government should take a more active role in reaching out to speak with the public. Almost one in five respondents thought that no one could facilitate an effective dialogue.

Meanwhile, the survey also reflected the political divide in the city, with half of respondents saying that it was “not possible” to hold a dialogue between people with different stances.

Hong Kong has been in the throes of nearly six months of social unrest, after protests sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill morphed into an anti-government movement that has led demonstrators to make four other demands, including amnesty for arrested protesters; a halt to labelling the protests as riots; an independent probe into the use of force by police; and the implementation of universal suffrage.

The extradition bill would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to places where Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement with, including mainland China.

About two in three respondents in the think tank’s survey said they expected the protests to continue for another three months, while younger respondents believed the unrest would go on for another six months.

Lau Ming-wai, 39, the founder of MWYO, said the poll results indicated a high level of frustration among Hong Kong residents.

“The results of this survey and the recent District Council elections give a strong indication of distress and dissatisfaction among Hongkongers,” said Lau, who is the son of property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung.

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“However, cross-spectrum dialogue can only succeed in a society with the favourable ambience, and that requires earnest efforts from the government and civil society,” he added.

Lau is also the vice-chairman of the Youth Development Commission, which is chaired by the city’s chief secretary for administration, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.

Hong Kong recently held its district council elections, which saw the pro-democracy camp winning a landslide victory, taking control of 17 of the 18 district councils that were previously dominated by the pro-establishment camp.

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