Heavyweight backing for independent inquiry into Hong Kong extradition bill clashes

Gary Cheung

More than 30 senior leaders from across Hong Kong civil society – including ex-government ministers and former allies of the city leader – have called on the administration to launch an independent inquiry into recent clashes between protesters and police sparked by the extradition bill.

Local Christian leaders joined the call in a separate appeal. In the joint message, Cardinal John Tong and Reverend Eric So Shing-yit, chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council, also urged the bill’s withdrawal.

In a statement issued on Friday morning, 35 signatories to the first statement said a commission of inquiry would be the best way to ease tensions and heal divisions in society in the wake of the debacle over city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s extradition bill.

“The chief executive should show her political and moral courage to resolve the ongoing conflicts in society,” the statement read.

Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung was among signatories calling for an independent inquiry into recent clashes. Photo: David Wong

“Political problems have to be resolved by political means. The government should not put frontline police officers near flashpoints of political conflicts.”

They said an independent inquiry could establish the truth about the clashes between protesters and police since the first major confrontation in Admiralty on June 12.

Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung and former Chinese University vice chancellor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu were among the signatories. So were chairman of the Harbourfront Commission Vincent Ng Wing-shun, chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce Shirley Yuen, former chairman of the Commission on Youth Philemon Choi Yuen-wan, and chairman of Hong Kong Television Network Ricky Wong Wai-kay.

Ng nominated Lam for chief executive in 2017. Former deputy broadcasting director Tai Keen-man, who also signed the joint statement, was Lam’s election campaign spokesman.

Police fire pepper spray at demonstrators during extradition bill protests. Photo: Felix Wong

Eight former political appointees, including former labour and welfare minister Stephen Sui Wai-keung and former undersecretary for transport and housing Yau Shing-mu, also signed the statement, as well as former government economist Kwok Kwok-chuen.

The first batch of signatories opened an online link for their joint statement around 4.30pm on Friday. By 10.30pm, more than 700 signatures have been collected, in addition to the first 35.

Lam on July 9 rejected calls for a top-level investigation into clashes between police and protesters. She said the Independent Police Complaints Council would investigate and all parties could provide information.

There have been widespread calls for a judge-led commission of inquiry, with former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang among the latest to support such a move, in a Post commentary.

Masked group defaces Lennon Wall in Tai Po

Protests in the city last month attracted up to 2 million demonstrators, who took to the streets to oppose a bill that would allow the transfer of criminal suspects to jurisdictions with which the city does not have a fugitive agreement, including mainland China. The government suspended the bill and indicated it would not return it to the legislature, but protesters continued to call for its full withdrawal.

The group’s statement also called on protesters not to resort to violence, adding that senior police officers should avoid escalating conflict when devising strategies for handling protests.

Meanwhile, nine city groups and nine professionals from business, education, social welfare, arts and IT sectors, issued a joint statement on Friday calling on the government to set up a commission of inquiry.

The signatories included the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, the Information Technology Federation, the Council of Social Service, United Muslim Association, the Hong Kong Art and Design Community, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and Eric Cheung Tat-ming, the University of Hong Kong law scholar.

The signatories called on people and organisations from other sectors to join the petition.

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