Top religious leaders have joined the growing demands for the city's leader to scrap - rather than suspend - the polarising extradition bill and to investigate allegations of violence against protesters.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Cardinal John Tong Hon, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, and Rev Dr Eric So Shing-yit, chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council, called on the government to appease the public by withdrawing the bill and setting up an inquiry into police conduct.
The Christian Council is an umbrella body for 21 churches, including Anglican and Methodist.
The appeal from Tong and So comes a day after the embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, made a public apology over her handling of the bill.
Despite her contrition, Lam rejected calls to scrap the bill. She insisted that her suspension was tantamount to withdrawing the bill because now it would not be debated and processed by the legislature before the end of its term - thereby killing the bill.
(The government) did not hear the voice of its citizensOpen letter by three local religious leaders
Even so, the clerics wanted more than suspension.
"While the government has made clear that the extradition bill has already been 'suspended', we still want (the government) to make an explicit public statement that the bill has been 'withdrawn' to meet the strong demand of the general public."
They also called on Lam to "launch a thorough and independent inquiry into the clashes between the police and the protesters (on June 12) as a lesson for the future".
Three more local religious leaders - Archbishop Paul Kwong, Bishop Andrew Chan and Bishop Timothy Kwok - issued an open letter on Tuesday that blamed the government for "ignoring the real worries and fears among citizens".
The letter said: "(The government) did not hear the voice of its citizens at the right time because it was focused solely on amendments to the legislation."
The letter's critical tone was a departure from Kwong's usually moderate and pro-establishment stance as a member of China's top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The church has played a visible role in fighting the extradition bill. Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing led a continuous prayer meeting outside the Legislative Council building after the June 16 march that was attended by hundreds of Christians.
(T)he antagonism is caused by the government, not the citizensWong Siu-tung, spokesman for a group of Christian pastors
At a rally on Wednesday outside government headquarters, Rev William Yeung Kin-keung, the spokesman of the Preparatory Committee of HK Pastors Petitions, also called for the bill to be withdrawn and an inquiry to be launched.
Wong Siu-tung, the spokesman for a group of Christian pastors that have been on the front line of the protest, criticised Lam for what he called an arrogant attitude.
"To resolve this debacle and return to normalcy, the government has to take actual steps - because the antagonism is caused by the government, not the citizens," Wong said.
"She uses poor communication as an excuse to shed responsibility for the large-scale protests (that) she induced. She only apologised in words, but has not backed it up with any action."
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