Hong Kong pro-establishment figures who supported an independent inquiry into police conduct during the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests have hit back at Chief Executive Carrie Lam, after she reportedly said they should apologise to the police.

File Photo: Ocean Tham/HKFP.

The city’s leader, at the invitation of Legislative Council president Andrew Leung, on Monday attended a banquet marking the end of the legislative session, at which she addressed government ministers and pro-establishment lawmakers in a speech.

Lam reportedly said she had faced immense pressure during the 2019 protests, when some pro-establishment lawmakers echoed calls from their pro-democracy counterparts and from the public for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality. But she said she was glad she had stood firm on the matter and had not conceded to an inquiry, local media reported, and those lawmakers should instead apologise to the police force.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press on October 26, 2021. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Michael Tien, one of the pro-establishment lawmakers who urged the government to promise an independent inquiry after violent clashes ended, hit back at Lam’s comments, according to HK01.

Apologies, but from whom?

“If there is a person who needs to apologise to all Hongkongers, that person has not done so. That person should apologise to everyone in Hong Kong, including the police, the central government. Let’s consider how the anti-extradition bill controversy first came about,” he said.

Such an inquiry would have cleared the police’s name and also would have allowed the government to investigate whether foreign forces had influenced the protests, he said.

Anti extradition bill protests in 2019 rocked the city for months, leading to sometimes violent clashes between protesters and police. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

Tien added that Zhang Xiaoming, the director of Beijing’s Hong Kong And Macau Affairs Office at the time, said during an August 2019 meeting with pro-establishment lawmakers in Shenzhen that it was not an appropriate time for an inquiry, but did not reject the idea entirely.

Liberal Party chief Felix Chung, who like Tien had backed an independent inquiry during the early days of the protests, said the chief executive was entitled to her opinion. “[If] the chief executive likes it… the chief executive has her opinion, that’s her own opinion,” he told Stand News.

Felix Chung. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Protests erupted in Hong Kong in June 2019 over a since-axed bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects to mainland China. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment into Hong Kong’s affairs.

Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of the protests as “riots.” 

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.