Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Wednesday that he had no public opinion poll on hand to explain public anger against the authorities, with his comment in Legco sparking disbelief among pro-democracy lawmakers.
Pan-dems told the government that it has to stop refusing to acknowledge the real reasons behind this growing public resentment, saying the spiralling anger is fuelling the city's sustained protests.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen had raised an urgent question at the weekly council meeting, asking ministers what emergency measures they could take to reduce people's fury.
In reply, Cheung said the ongoing protests are no longer about the now-withdrawn extradition bill and the sole aim of those taking part in them is to disturb the peace.
Asked what he believes to be the biggest cause of public anger, Cheung said he didn't have access to any public opinion poll to tell him and people could be upset about various things.
"Housing problems, the wealth gap, social mobility, and other social issues can all be the triggers," Cheung said.
But he also conceded that there are concerns about the Hong Kong police force.
"Some people hold certain views about how the police enforce the law, but they have to respond to the law and order incidents. There's no way they can stay away".
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said he was gobsmacked to hear Cheung saying he didn't know what the root cause of people's anger was. To said it is clear that police brutality is driving so many people to take to the streets.
"It points to the ignorance of the government of people's opinion on the police's excessive force and brutality. People understand the police have a duty to enforce the law, but [it should be] in a reasonable and proportionate way," To said.
He added that the government's conclusion – or the conclusion "dictated" to it by Beijing – that stopping violence is the most import task means the problem is only getting worse.
Not clear why people are so angry: Matthew Cheung
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