Lam stance softens on police inquiry

Top News | Michael Shum 21 Oct 2019

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor indicated she could be open to an independent police inquiry - but this would depend on a report by a watchdog due at the end of the year.

Speaking on a television program yesterday, Lam said an independent inquiry or nonstatutory committee could be set up if a report by the Independent Police Complaints Council did not calm the unrest.

Lam insisted the turmoil could not be solved with a single policy address or an independent commission of inquiry - one of the protesters' demands.

Lam believes the council's probe will cover both the Yuen Long and Prince Edward incidents, as well as the San Uk Ling Holding Centre scandal.

"If the probe, after going through an existing and independent mechanism, is still unable to settle controversies and distrust, the chief executive or the government will surely come up with another option to address it," Lam said.

When asked what the other options are, Lam said authorities can consider them at that point, adding that they will be "options considered acceptable by the public."

These include the much-talked about establishment of an independent commission of inquiry or independent but not statutory commission, she said.

Concerns were expressed after police officers took more than 30 minutes to arrive at the scene of a mob attack against protesters and commuters at the MTR Yuen Long station in July. They were also accused of a revenge on protesters at Prince Edward station in August.

Officers also allegedly injured or sexually assaulted protesters detained at the Sun Uk Ling Holding Centre.

The protests have led to at least 2,000 arrests since June, many of them students.

Lam said she will be providing assistance to young students without affecting the rule of law, but stopped short of saying whether she will be pardoning them after legal proceedings.

"The chief executive does possess the power to do so," Lam stressed.

"As it is written in the Basic Law, it is not an act against the rule of law. But saying anything now might send out the wrong message, [as] people might think that participating in illegal activities is not a big deal, for they will be pardoned [eventually]."

Lam focused on land and housing policies in the policy address, saying they are the root causes of societal grievances.

But many are worried that the new measures will lead to people holding negative equity in the future.

Lam responded that it is very hard to find the perfect timing for new measures and the government might not be able to please everyone.

But she emphasized that the government's aim is clear - to help those who are unable to afford the down payment for their first home.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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