There will be no commission of inquiry over the 2016 Mong Kok unrest following the sentencing of localist Edward Leung, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday.

At a Legislative Council question-and-answer session, Lam said that the situation with the Mong Kok unrest did not warrant setting up an independent commission. By law, the chief executive can appoint one or more commissioners to investigate the conduct of any public body or public officer, or into any matter of public importance.

“Any government will always have room for improvement, and there will always be dissatisfaction and anxiety in society – but that is not a reason to break the law,” Lam said.

Carrie Lam at Legco
Carrie Lam at LegCo. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

“If there needs to be an inquiry commission, it should be into those who are teaching these concepts of civil disobedience,” she added.

Lam’s response came after a court sentenced localist Edward Leung to six years in prison on Monday. Leung and four others have faced rioting and other charges in relation to protests that broke out over Lunar New Year in 2016, triggered when authorities attempted to clear street hawkers in Mong Kok.

When asked about Leung’s sentence, Lam denied that the judgment was political in nature and criticised talk of civil disobedience.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said he did not understand Lam’s reason for refusal and called her answer “unacceptable.”

Shiu Ka-chun
Lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“I asked if the government will set up a commission of inquiry similar to the cases of the 1956 and 1966 riots,” Shiu said. “A rational and responsible government will learn from history.”

“Hong Kong’s deeper tensions have not been resolved by the court’s ruling, and Lam’s attitude will only make it worse,” he added.

In February 2016, chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s administration also refused to set up a commission of inquiry in the immediate aftermath of the Mong Kok unrest.

The colonial government established a commission of inquiry in May 1966 to investigate the cause of the 1966 Star Ferry riots.

Edward Leung
Edward Leung. Photo: Citizen News.

During the question-and-answer session, Shiu also said Lam should not call the Mong Kok unrest a “riot” and speculate over the event without first investigating it in depth.

Lam replied that she was not making a “premature judgment” because more than 20 cases relating to the incident have already gone to court, and courts have given “detailed judgments” on their decisions.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.