Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said in a leaked recording that the Hong Kong police strongly oppose an independent investigation into their conduct, and she cannot act hastily over something that may affect their work.
Lam was speaking with a group of young people on Monday behind closed doors. Following the meeting, multiple news outlets claimed that Lam refused to set up an independent commission of inquiry into the recent protests – a main demand of protesters – owing to opposition from the police. Lam’s stance was cited by multiple unnamed sources, but she denied the claim on Tuesday.
However, a voice recording of Monday’s meeting was leaked to Apple Daily and published on Thursday. In the recording, Lam said: “Many people want to investigate the abuse of power of the police, if they violated this-and-that [rule] during operations, so colleagues of the police force were very much opposed to it.”
“This police force of 30,000 people is very important to us. As the chief executive, I cannot do something hastily which may affect their work,” she said.
The government issued a statement soon after the Apple Daily report, which did not deny the authenticity of the leaked recording: “The Chief Executive’s remarks at the closed-door event on August 26 on views of the police officers mentioned in media reports are statements of fact and are not related to the stance of the HKSAR Government,” it said.
It reiterated the government’s position that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) is handling complaints against the police and is conducting a study on the protests after June 9.
“As the related work of the statutory IPCC is under way, the HKSAR Government is of the view that it is inappropriate to set up another independent commission of inquiry for investigation. The stance of the HKSAR Government has all along been that relevant matters should be dealt with by the established mechanism,” it said.
The IPCC has been criticised as being powerless, as it cannot summon witnesses.
The ill-fated extradition bill would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China. Since June, large-scale peaceful protests have escalated into – sometimes violent – displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances.
In the leaked recording, Lam also said it was difficult for her to officially withdraw for the bill – another key demand of protesters.
Lam previously said the bill was “dead,” but has stopped short of officially withdrawing it: “It is very difficult for me to say more clearly,” she said in the recording.
She also said that, although the bill was a trigger for the ongoing protests, the demonstrations were not a result of the bill alone.
“Today it may be the extradition bill, next year it may be another sensitive issue not related to Hong Kong and mainland [relations]. It may be a local sensitive issue that may trigger [protests], because some issues have accumulated over time,” she said.
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