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

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

  • Foreign minister Murrison says judiciary should be involved
  • Comments in Parliament follow attacks on protesters on Sunday
Key Moments in The Hong Kong Protest

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.”

Tens of Thousands March in Hong Kong Anti-Government Protest

A demonstrator uses an umbrella to throw back a tear gas canister during a protest on July 21.

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

“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.

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.

Read more: Hong Kong Tempts China’s Ire as Protests Take More Violent Turn

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.

Read more: China Dismissal of U.K. Treaty Renews Doubts About Its Word

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.”