A sincere step forward to pave way for dialogue with the community
8 September 2019
With the utmost sincerity, the Chief Executive (CE) presented four actions last week to respond to the current social incidents in a pragmatic and proactive manner. We understand that those actions may not address all of Hong Kong people’s grievances in view of the current deadlock, but we hope that they can serve as a step forward. We hope to create, as far as practicable, a more peaceful social ambience and room for dialogue to find a way out for Hong Kong.
Here are the four actions:
- The Government will formally withdraw the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 at the Legislative Council in order to fully allay public concerns;
- the Government will fully support the work of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and has pledged to seriously follow up the recommendations made in the IPCC’s report. To assist the IPCC in performing its functions, the CE has appointed two new members, namely Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping and Paul Lam Ting-kwok, to the IPCC;
- starting from this month, the CE and her Principal Officials will reach out to the community to start a direct dialogue, inviting people from all walks of life with different stances and backgrounds to share their views and air their grievances, with a view to finding ways to address the discontent in society and to look for solutions; and
- the Government will invite community leaders, professionals and academics to independently examine and review society’s deep-seated problems and to advise the Government on finding solutions.
The Government’s stance on ceasing the work of amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance has been very clear. By announcing the formal withdrawal of the Fugitive Offenders Bill in order to put a full stop to the amendment exercise, we aim to dispel any possible doubt with this goodwill gesture so that our society can move forward. When the Legislative Council resumes business, the Secretary for Security will announce the withdrawal of the Bill according to Rule 64 of its Rules of Procedure. No voting or debate will be involved. As regards the other demands put forward by society, the Government has already given a clear response and stated the reasons and justifications for declining them.
An independent statutory body, the IPCC handles complaints involving the Police in a serious and conscientious manner according to the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance (Cap. 604). The IPCC’s objectivity is beyond doubt. The Government considers that matters relating to the Police’s law enforcement actions should be handled by the dedicated IPCC under the established mechanism rather than an independent commission of inquiry.
There exists a clear statutory basis for the operation of the IPCC. Earlier, the IPCC decided to conduct, in accordance with its statutory remit, a fact-finding study on the series of large-scale public order events (POEs) that took place on or after 9 June 2019 and the subsequent actions taken by the Police. Its work will include clarifying facts and making assessments and recommendations. The IPCC will also make public its findings in phases.
The IPCC has formed an International Expert Panel (IEP) to facilitate its study on the related policing practices and procedures. The IEP will participate in the second and third phases of the fact-finding study, i.e. make assessments and recommendations, after taking into account the facts reconstructed by the Task Force.
Members of the IEP are world-renowned and experienced experts in studying issues related to large-scale POEs and police actions. They come from the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their valuable experience and professional knowledge will help ensure the objectivity and impartiality of the study. The IEP is chaired by Sir Denis O’Connor, who was the UK Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Chief Constable of Surrey and is currently an affiliated lecturer at the Institute of Criminology of the University of Cambridge. The other members, being judges, a university professor and a barrister, are no doubt international authorities as well.
The IPCC has appealed to all to provide relevant information to assist its fact-finding study. As of 22 August, the IPCC received over 1 300 submissions containing more than 25 000 texts, photographs, video clips and hyperlinks via special hotlines, mails and electronic platforms. As of 5 September, a total of 208 Reportable Complaints and 347 Notifiable Complaints stemming from POEs were received. The IPCC will follow up these cases rigorously with the help of video footage, photographs, etc. which were provided as evidence by various parties.
There are deep-seated conflicts and long-standing economic, social, livelihood and political problems in society, such as those related to housing and land supply, wealth gap, social justice, opportunities for young people, upward mobility, as well as public engagement in the Government’s decision-making. As a responsible Government, we are obliged to find out our inadequacies as well as examine and resolve the problems. Therefore the Government will invite community leaders, professionals and academics to independently examine and objectively review society’s deep-seated problems and render their advice to the Government.
Meanwhile, the Government will reach out to the community through the creation of a dialogue platform in order to listen carefully to the views of people from different walks of life, of different political backgrounds and with different stances. Through candid and serious communication, we will be able to explore social issues with the public more directly to address deep-seated social conflicts. I would like to point out that engaging the public in a dialogue is neither a “public relations show” nor a delaying tactic. The Government is determined to find solutions to those deep-seated problems with the public through serious and rational dialogue.
The four actions presented will serve as a starting point for the Government to move forward with society in the hope of getting out of the current deadlock. They are not meant to be a compromise with violence, nor are they a display of weakness. Our top priority continues to be putting an end to violence and chaos. No one should blatantly violate the law even if they are discontented with the Government or the current state of social affairs. They should not resort to or rationalise violence, which is definitely not a solution to problems. Violence will always be violence. We should only commend people for their merits and correct their mistakes. The Government supports the Police to strictly and resolutely enforce the law in order to safeguard the rule of law and restore social order as soon as possible.
At this important juncture for upholding the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, I hope the general public support the Government’s four actions, say “no” to violence and condemn all violent acts to help Hong Kong move a step forward from the impasse. Indeed, our society is in need of a strong dose of positive energy. I sincerely appeal to all sectors of the community to put aside their differences and join hands with the Government to find a way out for Hong Kong, so that the “Pearl of the Orient” will continue to glitter and shine.