CY Leung considered pardon for Occupy protesters and police, but says he cannot override legal proceedings
Chief executive also says ‘Civic Square’, a popular protest spot, is not ready for reopening due to safety reasons
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Saturday he had considered pardoning those involved in the 2014 Occupy protests, but realised he could not override legal proceedings.
Earlier this week, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai called for an amnesty for both Occupy activists and police in a bid to bridge the social divide in Hong Kong society. He later retracted the contentious remark.
Speaking on an RTHK radio programme, Leung said he had considered using his powers to issue an amnesty amid public debate on the issue.
He did not refer to specific cases but said: “Legal proceedings are still under way in which the chief executive and the administration cannot intervene.”
Speaking at a separate event on Saturday, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said he had not asked Leung to issue an amnesty to the seven police officers jailed for assaulting an activist during the Occupy protests, adding that he would not comment further as the case was under appeal.
WATCH: More than 30,000 gather in support of officers jailed for beating up Occupy protester
The chief executive has the power to pardon a convicted person or commute their penalties under Article 48 (12) of the Basic Law, but the mini-constitution does not prescribe in detail the circumstances under which the power can be exercised.
Leung also rejected another suggestion for reconciliation on safety grounds – the reopening of the forecourt of the government headquarters popularly known as Civic Square.
The administration, which conducts regular risk assessments, had decided the space was not ready to be reopened, he said, adding that the part of the building linked to the square was made of glass.
In July 2014, the government banned access to the square for security reasons. On September 26 of that year, student protesters forced their way in to “reclaim” the square, igniting the 79-day Occupy protest.
The next Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, had said during the leadership race she would be willing to consider reopening the square.
Pan-democrats have been urging the new administration to reopen it. They have recently been joined by several pro-establishment lawmakers.
WATCH: Riot police deployed after Hong Kong students storm Civic Square
Commenting on the failure of political reform in 2015 when Legco voted down a proposal for the people to elect the chief executive under a restrictive Beijing-imposed framework, Leung said pan-democrats had misjudged the country’s leaders due to their long-standing lack of understanding of the central government.
“They are not clear about the mainland situation and Beijing’s governing principles on Hong Kong ... so they misjudged Beijing’s bottom line over political reform and the chief executive election,” Leung said.
Addressing skyrocketing property prices, Leung, who has placed housing as his top priority, defended the incumbent administration, saying it had boosted housing supply through measures to exclude foreign speculators.
Commenting on his visit to the Pearl River Delta earlier this week, he said it was important for the city to make use of opportunities offered by the “Greater Bay Area” integration plan, which would foster economic development and benefit all sides including ordinary Hongkongers.