Drop the bill, 32 ex-officials and lawmakers urge

Top News | Phoenix Un and Amy Nip 24 Jun 2019

Thirty-two former government officials along with six former consultants and professionals of the Central Policy Unit, have issued a joint statement calling on the government to withdraw the fugitive amendment bill.

It is the second statement after 27 former officials and lawmakers, most of whom joined in this time as well, signed the first statement on June 14 to call on the chief executive to retract the bill completely.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, former secretary for then-economic services Elizabeth Bosher, former secretary for security Peter Lai Hing-ning, former secretary for then- constitutional affairs Michael Sze Cho-cheung, together with former Legislative Council president Andrew Wong Wang-fat and former National People's Congress Hong Kong deputy David Chu Yu-lin, were among those signing both statements.

And six others signed for the first time. They included former CPU adviser Joseph Lian Yi-zheng and former Council of Social Service chief executive Christine Fang Meng-sang.

In the statement they said they jointly wrote again as they had been watching recent developments with even greater concern.

They called on the government to withdraw the bill immediately, as they believed a suspension was not the same as withdrawal.

"The government says it has no plan to continue and the bill will automatically lapse at the end of this legislative term in July 2020. But during this period, the government's refusal to withdraw the bill is fueling suspicion and instability," the statement said, explaining that a withdrawal would mean the government would have to start the process all over again.

Another call was to set up an independent inquiry to investigate the police use of force during the June 12 clash under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance and headed by one or more people with public credibility.

They believed all aspects of the government's handling of the amendment bill - including but not restricted to the police-citizen conflict that it gave rise to - should be investigated.

"If truth remains suppressed then we fear that such conflicts will continue, and may lead regrettably to more bloodshed and irreparable damage," they said.

The third call was for the immediate retraction of the riot label for the clash. They quoted the Public Order Ordinance that all participants in the June 12 clash would be charged with rioting if the clash was defined as a riot.

The statement said: "Hong Kong people demonstrated peacefully. It is ironic that our own government should denigrate our people as 'rioters.'"

Meanwhile, Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan said the recent controversy raised the question of whether the composition of the Executive Council failed to reflect public opinion. It is not optimal to include only members from the pro-establishment camp, he said. More neutral members who may disagree with the government's stance could be introduced into the top advisory body, he recommended on the sidelines of City Forum yesterday.

Chung said the idea of establishing an independent inquiry to probe the June 12 clashes is negotiable, but the inquiry should not focus on police action alone but also suspected foreign intervention.

Edwin Cheng Shing-lung, a former member of the Independent Police Complaints Council, had disagreed with the idea of an inquiry. But he said yesterday in the forum that the proposal is feasible if the chairman of the police watchdog could join the inquiry.

Another speaker, Chinese University student union leader So Chun-fung, expected disobedience movements to continue until the government addresses protesters' demands.

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