Britain will keep 'close eye' on Hong Kong violence probe

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrives before addressing the media at a press conference in Hong Kong on July 22, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Britain "will be keeping a close eye" on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's investigation into a vicious assault on pro-democracy protesters, a junior foreign minister said on Monday (July 22).

"I welcome Carrie Lam's statement today saying she has asked the Commissioner of Police to investigate this incident fully and pursue any lawbreakers," Andrew Murrison told the House of Commons.

"We will be keeping a close eye on this."

The minister said it was "important that we do not jump to any conclusions" as to who was behind Sunday's "disturbing scenes."

Anger soared in Hong Kong following the attacks by suspected gangsters that left dozens wounded.

Gangs of men - most wearing white T-shirts and carrying bats, sticks and metal poles - set upon anti-government demonstrators as they returned from another huge march earlier that day.

Murrison condemned the violence, adding that "I stand by people's right to protest peacefully and lawfully."

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Britain, which signed a treaty handing over control of the region to China in 1997, "remains fully committed to upholding Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms," he added.

"We will continue to be unwavering in our support for the treaty and expect our co-signatory to behave in a like manner.

"We will continue to stand up and speak out," he told MPs.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for an independent inquiry into the police response to protests.

Murrison demanded that the inquiry be "full and comprehensive...and crucially independent.

"It probably is not sufficient simply to have an internal police inquiry," he said. "It really does need to involve Hong Kong's excellent and well-respected judiciary."

Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met.

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