More than 100 elite civil servants have urged the government to listen to the public and form an independent investigation committee to look into the recent protests and incidents. They said they wished to allow an opportunity for Hong Kong to reconcile, recover from the trauma and move forward.
Administrative officers are a rank of decision-making civil servants who are able to rise in the career ladder up to permanent bureau secretaries. There are around 700 administrative officers in the city, meaning one out of seven signed the joint letter.
“It is the officials’ dereliction of duty that worries the citizens: we witnessed several mass protests of unrivalled scale, even the suicides of some exasperated citizens. The Principal Officials responsible still turned a deaf ear to the outcry of the public,” they wrote.
“It is the Government’s loss of credibility that agitates the citizens: we witnessed thugs savagely assaulting unarmed civilians indiscriminately in Yuen Long and the Police failed to arrive on [the] scene in time. In the face of such blatant failure, the officials responsible have resorted to sugarcoating instead of admitting the problem.”
They said they are meant to remain politically neutral but cannot remain silent anymore at the crossroads of right and wrong, following a series of incidents originating from the now-suspended extradition bill.
“It is the Police’s ruination of discipline that disappoints the citizens: we witnessed when demonstrations turned into confrontations, the police staff, as seen in web livecasts, [were] suspected to have failed to observe the regulations in exercising their powers, such as intentionally hiding their identity, and applying force of a questionable level.”
The joint letter came after over 500 executive officers – mid-level civil servants running daily operations – signed a similar statement. More than 300 civil servants of other ranks joined a third statement.
The administrative officers said the government must face the root of the problem and establish an independent commission of inquiry.
The commission, they said, can investigate whether the amendment exercise of the extradition bill was appropriate, whether the actions and strategies used by the police were proportionate, and whether misconduct in public office was involved during the assault in Yuen Long, among other issues.
“It takes the one who tied the bell to untie it. If the people in power can listen to the voice of Hongkongers with a benevolent and generous attitude, the first step to right the wrongs will come into sight in no time,” they wrote. “If the present predicament lingers, Hong Kong may be pushed into an even deeper crisis. We hope the people in power can carefully weigh the pros and cons with an open heart, and stalwartly stand by all Hongkongers.”
They also urged the police to strictly comply with existing laws and rules and strive to rebuild the mutual trust with the public.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has maintained that the existing mechanism to file complaints against police is effective.
Cheung said he understood the officers’ concerns and respected their freedom of expression: “We hope it will not affect the level of service to the public,” he said last week.
The extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with no prior arrangements, including China. Critics have said residents would be at risk of extradition to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has declared the bill “dead,” but did not enact any mechanism to withdraw it.
Hong Kong protesters have made five demands during recent protests against the government. The demands include a complete withdrawal of the now-suspended bill, a retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the June 12 protests, an independent investigation into police behaviour and an unconditional release of all arrested protesters. They also called for a disbanding of the legislature and implementation of universal suffrage.