HK protests: city’s leader Carrie Lam commits to ‘creating a platform for dialogue’ but again dismisses calls for independent inquiry into police

21-Aug-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader has said she is willing to create a platform for dialogue, but will not sanction an independent investigation into police actions during a political crisis that has rocked the city for almost three months.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said her administration would immediately work on setting up a means of finding a solution to the civil unrest triggered by her massively unpopular extradition bill.

But Lam again said the Independent Police Complaints Council was capable of dealing with alleged police misconduct and once more dismissed calls for an independent inquiry.

“All my principal officials and I are committed to listening to what the people have to tell us,” she said on Tuesday morning, adding she would start approaching those who in the past had proposed talks.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has committed to opening a dialogue on the civil unrest that has rocked the city. (SCMP)

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has committed to opening a dialogue on the civil unrest that has rocked the city. (SCMP)

“I think it is a very sincere expression of my hope to have a dialogue with various sectors of society.”

Several university presidents had earlier called for an open platform for different stakeholders to express their views and narrow the differences.

Lam’s remarks came two days after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in a peaceful mass demonstration that passed without any violence or clashes with police.

“I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to peace and moving away from violence,” Lam said of Sunday’s march.

I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to peace and moving away from violence

Carrie Lam, chief executive

Such days have been rare over the past two months as the campaign against the extradition bill morphed into a full-blown anti-government movement with the use of force escalating on both sides.

Lawmakers and protesters have urged Lam to capitalise on the lull, and respond to their list of demands, which includes a complete withdrawal of the now-abandoned extradition bill, and an independent investigation into the police’s use of force.

But the Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of Sunday’s march, said Lam’s gesture was far from adequate to break the current impasse.

“The peaceful march on Sunday was one of the few opportunities that Hongkongers offered Lam to address their calls, but unfortunately, the five demands are again dashed,” front convenor Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit said.

“Is Lam really sincere in having dialogue?”

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said he doubted the effectiveness of Lam’s approach, adding that protesters who wanted their demands met might see it as a delaying tactic.

“It would take a long time to come up with the composition of the platform and ways to take the dialogue results forward,” he said.

Choy said he believed the line-up of the platform would not seem credible or convincing to protesters.

A source close to the government said the administration was seriously exploring ways to proceed with the move so it could start talking to young protesters as soon as possible.

“It is a matter of how,” the source said. “Should the government lead the platform or invite a youth organisation to do it and let the government play a key role? Who should join the platform? These are questions to be solved.”

Meanwhile, Lam on Tuesday continued to turn down requests to order an independent probe, insisting the police watchdog would be conducting a fact-finding study, a move first announced last month.

“I hope that this is a very responsible response to the aspirations for better understanding of what has taken place in Hong Kong,” Lam said.

She also said more members might be appointed to the IPCC in light of its heavy workload on the study, and that overseas experts would also be called in to offer advice.

Lam once again ruled out a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, but said there was “no plan to revive this, especially in light of the public’s concern”.

Aside from the full withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry, protesters have also called for Lam to resign, for the government to retract its characterisation of the violent clashes as “riots”, and for everyone arrested in connection with the clashes to be freed unconditionally.

Democratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai said Lam’s proposals would not stem the protests.

“The platform has no statutory status and how are you going to build credibility for it?” said Wu, who expressed his belief that there might be resistance within the government to an independent inquiry.

“But if you are determined, who can stop you?” he added, noting that the last word still rested with Lam.

A frontline protestor surnamed Wong, 18, said he did not think the platform would make a difference.

“We are talking about the five major demands. I don’t think there would be any constructive results from such dialogue,” he said.

The student also questioned if Lam really dared to pound the pavement for her cause.

“Huge clashes are likely to happen if Lam really visits communities,” he said, suggesting there would be protests against her.



Category: Hong Kong

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