The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) has warned that a recent spate of violence could undermine the city’s international image and raise concerns about its commitment to the rule of law.
The statement on Monday came a day after a mob armed with bamboo sticks and other weapons injured at least 45 commuters, anti-extradition law protesters, journalists as well as a pro-democracy lawmaker. At least six were arrested over the incident.
The trade group condemned the unrest from a “small number of radicals” as horrific while urging the government to resolve the conflict by engaging in public dialogue and formally withdrawing the extradition bill which triggered the political crisis.
“Protests are becoming increasingly confrontational while factions are being created that pit citizen against citizen,” the statement read. “We respect the peaceful protestors on past weekends voicing their concerns, and we were humbled by their civility and respect for the law. However, the violence by a small number of radicals at the end of the peaceful demonstrations has shocked society.”
The incident in Yuen Long followed seven weeks of anti-government protests sparked by the controversial extradition bill, which would enable Hong Kong to handle fugitive transfer requests from jurisdictions including China. The proposed law was suspended on June 15 but not axed.
The city has seen unprecedented scenes of unrest including a storming of the Legislative Council on July 1. Protesters and police also engaged in running battles in Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza on June 14.
The HKGCC proposed the government enlarge the scope of public consultation, ensure that future demonstrations are peaceful, accept responsibility for poor handling of the crisis, and establish an independent inquiry into the conflict.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce strongly condemns the violence yesterday and calls for a swift resolution to the current impasse that has polarised our community. The situation is also raising concerns in Hong Kong and internationally about our commitment to the Basic Law and the Rule of Law. Efforts to resolve the ongoing concerns over the Fugitive Ordinance Bill have stagnated and given rise to frustrations based on the perception that public demands are being ignored.
Protests are becoming increasingly confrontational while factions are being created that pit citizen against citizen. We respect the peaceful protestors on past weekends voicing their concerns, and we were humbled by their civility and respect for the law. However, the violence by a small number of radicals at the end of the peaceful demonstrations has shocked society. The storming of LegCo, attacks on the Police Headquarters, violence in Shatin and last night in Sheung Wan and vandalising of the Central Liaison Office cannot be tolerated. Most recently, the horrific attacks on innocent people in Yuen Long, and extremely worrying development of people taking the law into their own hands, have shocked and disgusted the people in Hong Kong.
We believe there are four fundamental actions that both government and demonstrators can take to restore peace and order and find ways to address the issues at the root of this issue. They include:
- Recognising that we all have a shared love for Hong Kong and we are all committed to preserving the qualities that make our community a world-class city and building a better quality of life for future generations living and working in Hong Kong. The government should immediately enlarge the scope of public consultation at all levels, to incorporate the views of the general public to resolve social conflicts and in their policy formation.
- Agreeing that both sides need to show good faith: the government by formally withdrawing the Fugitive Offenders Bill; the community by condemning the violence that has been so damaging to lives and property as well as undermining the image of Hong Kong internationally. We must do everything possible to ensure that future demonstrations are peaceful.
- The government must recognise that the ministerial system was created to promote accountability and the system must be applied to those officials who are responsible for the poor manner in how the bill was handled.
- Establishment of a Commission of Inquiry immediately to independently examine the facts surrounding the events that are at the root of the tensions and their escalation to the current situation impacting our community. The Commission would provide an impartial platform for all allegations and grievances to be examined. The government and leaders in our community must be committed to act on recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry.
Our goal is for the community to move forward with the institutions of government and law enforcement returning to the roles they play so well, promoting safety, security and progress, and for those in our community who are concerned about the future of Hong Kong to return to working peacefully to push for positive change. For our part, we will work as leaders in the business community and individually as employers and members of the community to support progress and restoration of trust.
“The government must recognise that the ministerial system was created to promote accountability and the system must be applied to those officials who are responsible for the poor manner in how the bill was handled,” HKGCC’s statement read. “For our part, we will work as leaders in the business community and individually as employers and members of the community to support progress and restoration of trust.”