U.K. Backs Calls for Independent Probe Into Hong Kong Violence

Stuart Biggs
U.K. Backs Calls for Independent Probe Into Hong Kong Violence

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government wants the violence in Hong Kong over the weekend to be included in the scope of a broader independent inquiry into protests and the police handling of unrest in recent weeks.

Foreign Minister Andrew Murrison told members of Parliament in London that while he supports Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s promise of an investigation into attacks on activists, “it is probably not sufficient simply to have an internal police inquiry.”

“It really does need to involve Hong Kong’s excellent and well respected judiciary,” Murrison said, adding that the U.K. originally called for an independent probe some time ago and events have “evolved” since then. An “inquiry needs to be independent and be seen to be independent by the international community,” he said.

@business: https://t.co/slabgS69Ec pic.twitter.com/zYZGBtWSlv

— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) July 22, 2019

Parliament held an urgent debate on Hong Kong in response to an incident Sunday in which some residents -- many wearing the black shirts favored by pro-democracy protesters -- were attacked in a train station by groups of men wearing white shirts.

Along with another episode that saw a pro-independence group accused of stockpiling explosives, it’s prompted fears that protesters and the China-backed government are heading toward a violent confrontation.

But Murrison’s backing for an independent inquiry risks angering Beijing, which has repeatedly demanded the U.K. stay out of China’s affairs in Hong Kong.

China took control of Hong Kong in 1997, ending 156 years of British rule, after former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher negotiated a “one country, two systems” agreement. It was designed to guarantee freedoms and was sealed with a joint declaration signed by Britain and China in 1984.

Murrison said a proposed extradition bill, which Lam has said is “dead” following the protests, “has brought to a head wider unhappiness” on issues including democracy. “It’s a bit like uncorking a bottle,” he said.

The British government “will be critical of China going forward if we think that is appropriate,” Murrison said. “I am confident that China will come to see that its interests, as well as the interests of the people of Hong Kong, are best served by preserving the one-country, two systems status.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Biggs in London at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Joe Mayes

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.