Over 30 professionals and scholars across various higher education institutions in Hong Kong have initiated a petition demanding the government establish an independent committee to investigate the clashes in Mong Kok last Monday evening.
The government’s clearing of street hawkers in Mong Kok triggered violent protests, during which a police officer fired two warning shots into the air.
Amongst the initiators of the petition are Chinese University of Hong Kong Associate Professors Wong Hung and Yiu Chung Yim, University of Hong Kong principal lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming, and Chair of School of Film and Television Kenneth Ip. Members of the public were also invited to sign the petition to declare their support. The petition was set up on Sunday and had collected 535 signatures as of 7:36 on Monday morning.
The group also issued a statement along with the petition, criticising the government for calling the incident a riot and arresting individuals involved without having first carried out an investigation. In addition, no account of the causes of the incident was given, nor has any proposal been put forward as to how to avoid police-civilian clashes in the future, the group said.
“Those who participated in the clashes were numerous, reflecting the fact that the problems cannot be blamed solely upon the actions of a so-called handful of rioters… If the government does not seek the causes of the conflict and only uses high-handed methods in dealing with matters, we fear that it would only incite further resistance and conflict of increasing violence and gravity, which can only be harmful to our society,” the petition said.
The group referenced the riots of 1967 and said that following the incident, the colonial government accepted proposals submitted by a committee, which improved its policies and communication with the people. “If the former regime had the courage to review and reform itself, how can the current regime be incapable of doing so?”
The academics and professionals urged the government to establish an independent committee as soon as possible to investigate the facts and causes of the incident, as well as proposals for prevention of future incidents. If the government failed to do so by March 9, they would also ask lawmakers to put forward a motion under Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance and, failing that, they would set one up themselves.
Civic Party’s Alan Leong and Democratic Party’s James To welcomed the idea of setting up an independent committee, although To said that it would be difficult to do so as the government was doing its best to avoid any kind of blame. Ip Kwok-him from The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong told Ming Pao that an independent investigation committee was neither necessary nor acceptable, and accused the scholars of “diverting attention” from the violence.