Hong Kong’s leader vowed to tackle the ongoing protests by legal means, adding that the police would not respond to violence with more of their own.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also admitted that the crux of the political stalemate lay with the government’s refusal to meet protesters’ demands.
Speaking before meeting her advisers in the Executive Council on Tuesday morning, Lam said the police had been using a minimal level of force against protesters.
“Violence should not be rationalised or beautified,” Lam said. “We will also not fight violence with violence.”
Assistant commissioner of police Terence Mak Chin-ho, however, had said earlier that officers would use proportional force against protesters.
On Saturday, an officer fired a live round when chased by protesters on the streets of Tsuen Wan during an extradition bill protest.
The same day, police also deployed water cannon against protesters for the first time, as demonstrators upped the ante by hurling petrol bombs.
Asked if the government was considering invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, as some reports had suggested, Lam did not give a straight answer.
The ordinance, if invoked, gives the chief executive, in council, the power to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in times of emergency or public danger.
Such laws can cover a wide range of matters, including censorship, detention and trade.
“All laws in Hong Kong – if they can provide a legal means to stop violence and chaos – the SAR government is responsible for looking into them,” Lam said.
The Post reported earlier more than half of the 19 figureheads who met Lam on Saturday for a colloquy regarding the platform told her she should address protesters’ top two demands – a full withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill and the setting up of an independent investigation into the protests, including the police’s use of force.
On Tuesday, Lam admitted the stalemate lay with the government’s refusal to accept the demands.
“It is not the question of not responding, it is the question of not accepting those demands,” Lam said.
But she argued that it would be inappropriate for the government to accommodate the demands, in light of the violence and the fact the government had already suspended the bill.
She also said the platform would be open to the public, including those who took part in the protests, but gave no update on when it would be established.
Meanwhile, Lam refused to say if the police should apologise to the public over the alleged assault by uniformed officers on a 62-year-old man being held in custody at North District Hospital.
Lam said the government viewed all violence the same way, regardless of who perpetrated it.
“Even if it concerns a police officer, that same yardstick applies,” Lam said, adding that the police had taken action against three former and current policemen involved.
The three were brought to court last week on charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Occupy leader Benny Tai Yiu-ting said the administration should take the blame for escalations in violence at protests, but said civil society could take the lead in building platforms for dialogue and reconciliation.
The legal scholar, who has been a strong advocate of peaceful means of civil disobedience, said violence might not always be wrong, especially when used against other unreasonable use of force or a systematic crackdown by any regime.
“When the system harms the dignity of fundamental values and equality, using a degree of violence in response has some legitimacy,” Tai said on a radio programme.
He stressed he personally supported peaceful means of protests, and the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee similar to the one set up in South Africa after the fall of apartheid in the 1990s.
“Civil society could invite police officers and protesters to sit down, with a neutral host – someone, say from a religious group,” Tai said.
But he said such an exchange must also go hand in hand with an independent inquiry and guidelines for amnesties, so all parties could share their experience and feelings without fear.
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
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