No British-style probe into causes of Mong Kok riot, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says
Chief executive adds however that if such an investigation were done, it should look into who told young people to ‘break laws to achieve justice’
Hong Kong’s leader rejected a call on Wednesday for an investigation into the causes of the 2016 Mong Kok riot, saying however that if a panel were set up for this purpose, it should look into who had told the city’s young people to “break laws to achieve justice”.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was responding to pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun’s request that the authorities follow in the footsteps of the British colonial government, which had looked into the policy issues that led to riots in the 1950s and 1960s.
Shiu raised the matter at the Legislative Council’s question-and-answer session on Wednesday morning, two days after the High Court jailed independence activist Edward Leung Tin-kei, 27, for six years and his co-defendant, Lo Kin-man, 31, for seven years for their role in the Mong Kok riot. They were the most severe sentences handed down to protesters since the rioting offence was added to the city’s public order laws in 1970.
“The deep-rooted conflicts in society have not been solved following the heavy sentences,” Shiu said.
The lawmaker asked whether officials would set up an investigation panel, as the British colonial government did for the 1956 Double Tenth riots and 1966 Kowloon riots, to probe the reasons behind the Mong Kok unrest so as to improve the related social policies.
“The answer is no,” Lam replied. “Any government, at any time, has room for improvement. No matter how we have worked perfectly, society will have voices of dissatisfaction and anxiety.”
She said this was not an excuse to break the law, and the current social situation in Hong Kong was far from severe.
“If there is really a need to set up an investigation panel, it should investigate who instilled the ideas of achieving justice through violating the law and civil disobedience over the years,” she added.
The Mong Kok riot of February 2016 saw the busy district go into virtual lockdown as police clashed with protesters over the removal of illegal street hawkers from the area.
On Tuesday, without naming anyone, Lam slammed those who “romanticised” illegal acts and those who made calls for civil disobedience.
Shiu accused the chief executive of deepening social conflicts in Hong Kong.
“She could just say no if she decided so … but she was diverting attention by putting forth some specious remarks,” he said.
In response to pro-Beijing lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan’s concerns that critics of the jail sentence had tarnished the city’s image, Lam, who will begin her visit to Europe on Thursday, said one of the goals of the trip was to tell European politicians that Hong Kong had an independent judicial system with which the executive branch did not interfere.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the judiciary said it was “highly concerned” about the recent spate of online attacks directed at High Court judge Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam following the sentences and had referred the incident to the Department of Justice for follow-up.
On Wednesday, the overseas edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily published a commentary saying Leung’s sentencing should “educate the public on the rule of law”.
The piece said that independence activists in Hong Kong should “wake up and not be exploited by political forces”.