Mong Kok rioters would have been shot dead if handled by foreign police, ex-Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying says
Former chief executive describes unrest of 2016 that led to 91 arrests as a test case for change in city
Hong Kong’s ex-leader has raised eyebrows by suggesting protesters in the 2016 Mong Kok riot could have been shot dead had foreign police been involved.
Leung Chun-ying offered the remark in a Facebook entry he posted on Friday after critics questioned whether the unrest amounted to a “riot”and whether the six-year jail term imposed on localist Edward Leung Tin-kei on Monday was too harsh.
“Look at the Western nations!” the city’s former top official wrote. “Their police would have been extremely likely to have shot the rioters dead in that situation.”
The violent clashes between protesters and police took place in February 2016 while Leung was chief executive. In total, 91 people were arrested, including 24 who ended up being convicted or pleading guilty to a range of charges including rioting and assaulting.
Edward Leung’s co-defendant, Lo Kin-man, was jailed for seven years – the most severe punishment handed down since the rioting offence was added to the city’s public order laws in 1970.
In his entry, the ex-leader described the riot as a test case for change, comparing it with Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” of 2011. He also questioned why the city’s opposition camp did not ask police in the West to learn how to be as restrained as the Hong Kong force.
Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu slammed Leung for what he called a confrontational attitude, claiming the former leader was a reason for the unrest.
“As his poor governance upset many, some chose their own way to express their frustrations,” Yeung said. But the lawmaker noted he did not agree with the protesters’ actions.
Veteran political commentator Joseph Lian Yi-zheng, who briefly visited Edward Leung at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on Tuesday said the former chief executive had taken issues “out of context”.
Separately, Lian added the localist had been in good condition and was treated fairly during his months in custody.
The commentator said the former spokesman of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous had expressed dismay that even though the Mong Kok clashes were much less severe than the city’s riots of 1967, protesters in the 2016 unrest faced heavier sentences.
Lian also quoted Leung as saying he would “definitely” join efforts to turn localists into “a political force” and that jail was a test for him and other young activists such as pro-democracy Occupy movement leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who was jailed twice in the past 12 months.
“Only by making different degrees of sacrifice can it be proved that this generation’s determination to change Hong Kong is selfless and not for personal gain,” Lian quoted Leung as saying.
However, Lian said he and the activist did not delve into greater detail because their conversation was being monitored by prison officers.