Editorial : Independent investigation is necessary

【明報專訊】IN a televised address to all citizens in Hong Kong, chief executive Carrie Lam proposed a four‑pronged action plan. This includes the official withdrawal of the amendment bill of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance as the starting point for society to move forward. But the creation of an independent commission of inquiry or a commission of truth and reconciliation will not be part of the plan.

Carrie Lam's four‑point prescription for a Hong Kong in tatters includes: 1) the official withdrawal of the amendment bill; 2) the addition of new members to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and the creation of a panel of international experts to follow up the issue of the police's legal enforcement actions; 3) the building of a platform for dialogue that allows the chief executive, secretaries of departments and directors of bureaux to visit districts and listen to the opinions of people of different political views and from different social strata; 4) inviting leaders in society, experts and scholars to conduct independent study and review on deep‑seated problems in society and present suggestions to the government.

Given the forceful way the government introduced the amendments, the public has fundamental doubt over whether the government is willing to listen to its opinion. In mid‑June, Carrie Lam announced the "suspension" of the amendment. She later said that "the bill is dead", but was unwilling to use the word "withdrawal" outright. Perhaps from the government's point of view, the declaration that "the bill is dead" was very clear and precise indeed. The problem is that the government was having an enormous "trust deficit" and many citizens wanted to hear the words "official withdrawal". It was not only because of the technical difference between "withdrawal" and "suspension" on the legislative level. More importantly, it was because citizens were angry that the government paid no regard to public opinion. Now that Carrie Lam has formally withdrawn the amendment, it can be said that she has finally answered the most fundamental demand of the people. But it has come too late — it is uncertain whether the move will turn the current situation around.

The storm of protest against the amendments has gone on for nearly three months. Over a million people have taken to the streets thrice to protest the bill peacefully, while the "valiant" camp has initiated ceaseless attacks, pushing the level of violence higher and higher. Continuous clashes between police and citizens have left hundreds of people injured and more than a thousand arrested, so society has paid dearly. As Hong Kong is experiencing the greatest turmoil since the 1967 riots, some people will inevitably think that had the government withdrawn the bill after the mass demonstration by a million people on June 9, the ongoing crisis would not have happened. But there are no "ifs" in history. Things have so developed that the focus of attention is not on opposition to the amendment anymore. Some are pointing an accusing finger at the police for their use of excessive force, while some are angry at the wilful acts of sabotage carried out by violent protesters and are demanding that "violence be stopped and disorder be curbed" as soon as possible.

Let us reiterate our position: we believe the formal withdrawal of the amendment bill and the creation of an independent commission of inquiry are the two keys to solving the difficult situation at present. An independent commission of inquiry led by a senior judge will have more credibility. The commission will also possess the legal power to summon witnesses, whose testimonies cannot be used for civil or criminal prosecution. This will encourage people from all sectors to testify. The IPCC is only responsible for following up issues of the police's law enforcement. It is powerless to fully examine the whys and wherefores of the anti‑amendment storm concerning the actions of the radical protesters and their sources of funding, how the SAR government should be held responsible, foreign forces and other aspects. This is exactly where an independent investigation can fill the gap, and it will also help unearth the whole truth. This deserves the government's serious consideration.

明報社評2019.09.05:撤修例遲來釜底抽薪 還原真相靠獨立調查







televise : to broadcast sth on television

outright : in a direct way and without trying to hide anything

valiant : very brave or determined

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