The government said there is no need to set up an independent commission of inquiry to look into last Monday’s unrest in Mong Kok, after over 30 scholars and professionals initiated a petition.

The government’s clearing of street hawkers in Mong Kok triggered violent protests which continued into the early hours of last Tuesday. During the protest, a police officer fired two warning shots into the air.

Professionals and scholars across various higher education institutions in Hong Kong initiated a petition on Sunday demanding the government establish an independent committee headed by a judge to investigate the clashes. As 8am Tuesday, it has been signed by almost 2,000 people.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.
Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

The government, however, said they disagree there is a need to do so. On Monday evening, a government spokesperson said: “The riot in Mong Kok was a serious violent incident. Criminal investigations by the Police are underway with a view to apprehending all culprits for fair trials and rulings by the court. As such, [the government] does not consider it necessary to set up an independent commission of inquiry, headed by a judge, to look into the incident.”

Already listening

Although the government recognised that an inquiry commission was set up following riots in the 1960s, it said it was inappropriate to make direct comparisons between the incidents. “Hong Kong nowadays enjoys free access to information and is a highly democratic and transparent society,” the government said.

1967 riots
1967 riots. Photo: Life Magazine.

“Members of the public are entitled to freedom of speech and can express their opinions and aspirations on social problems and government administration through various channels, including different tiers of councils, consultative bodies or even in the form of peaceful processions, demonstrations and assemblies. Individuals can also seek relief from the court to review the administrative decisions through legal proceedings.”

The government also said that it has been “listening attentively to members of the public” and will continue to “improve governance” and work towards the well-being of Hong Kong. It stressed once again that views and demands must not be made in an illegal or violent manner.

stephen lo
Stephen Lo. File Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung announced on Monday that an internal committee headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police in Management Alfred Chau Kwok-leung will be conducting a review of police action during the Mong Kok unrest. It will look into areas such as the equipment used, strategies employed, the quality of command and communication, and so on.

‘More autocratic’ 

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Associate Professor Dixon Sing Ming, who was one of the initiators of the petition, told Apple Daily that Hong Kong appeared to be semi-democratic, but it was becoming more autocratic; the circumstances were similar to those surrounding the 1960s riots such that the government had ignored the wishes of the people. “I don’t think we’ve improved that much since 1960s,” he told Apple Daily. Another initiator, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Associate Professor Chung Kim-wah, also said he was disappointed in the government’s decision.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.