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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 Now that Carrie Lam has formally withdrawn the amendment, it can be said that she has finally answered the most fundamental demand of the people.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

行政長官林鄭月娥向全港市民發表電視講話,提出4項行動,包括正式撤回修訂《逃犯條例》,作為社會向前行的起點,惟未有設立「獨立調查委員會」或「真相和解委員會」。

當下香港傷勢嚴重,林鄭開出的四道藥方,包括﹕1)正式撤回修例;2)監警會加入新成員,設立國際專家小組,跟進警方執法事宜;3)構建對話平台,由行政長官和所有司局長落區,聆聽不同政見和階層市民的意見;4)邀請社會領袖、專家和學者,就社會深層次問題做獨立研究及檢討,向政府提出建議。

政府強推修例,市民對當局是否願意聆聽民意,產生根本懷疑。6月中,林鄭宣布「暫緩」修例,之後又說修例「壽終正寢」,就是未有清晰說出「撤回」。從政府角度而言,宣告修例「壽終正寢」,也許已是相當斬釘截鐵,問題是刻下政府「信任赤字」太大,很多市民就是希望聽到「正式撤回」這4個字,這不僅是因為「撤回」與「暫緩」在立法技術上有差別,更重要是市民不滿政府漠視民情。現在林鄭正式撤回修例,總算回應了市民最基本訴求,只是未免來得太遲,然而能否為當前局勢帶來轉機,仍是未知之數。

反修例風暴持續近3個月,上百萬市民三度上街和平示威,「勇武派」則不斷發起衝擊,暴力事件愈演愈烈,警民衝突不休,傷者數以百計,累計過千人被捕,社會付上沉重代價。香港經歷了六七暴動以來最動盪歲月,難免有人會想,如果政府早在6月9日百萬人大遊行後便撤回修例,就不會出現眼前危機,可惜歷史沒有「如果」。事態發展來到這一刻,反修例已不是焦點所在,有人將矛頭指向警察過度使用武力,亦有人不滿暴力分子肆意破壞,要求盡快止暴制亂。

我們重申,正式撤回修例和設立獨立調查委員會,是化解當前困局的兩把鑰匙。由資深大法官領導調查,可以提高公信力,獨立調查委員會有法定權力傳召證人,作證資料不能用於民事或刑事檢控,亦有助鼓勵各方人士出來作證。監警會只能跟進警方執法,無法全面審視反修例風暴始末,包括激進示威者的行為及資金來源、特區政府的責任,以至外部勢力等問題,獨立調查正好填補這方面不足,有助全面還原真相,政府應該認真考慮。

■Glossary

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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