The British government has urged its Hong Kong counterpart to launch an investigation into the clashes between police and protesters in Admiralty on June 12.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons during the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Oral Questions on Tuesday (London time) that the British government is “very concerned” with the situation in its former colony, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Besides expressing those concerns to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on the day when the incident took place, the United Kingdom on Tuesday urged the HKSAR government to establish “a robust, independent investigation into the violent scenes” they saw, Hunt said.

“The outcome of that investigation will inform our assessment of future export license applications to the Hong Kong police,” Hunt said.

“And we will not issue any further export licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong unless we are satisfied that concerns raised on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed,” he said.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has since been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows it freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including the freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

“We will stand by that agreement and we expect China to do the same,” Reuters quoted Hunt as saying.

“The fundamental freedoms of Hong Kong are what have made it such a stunning success since 1997 and indeed before 1997 – anything that contradicted the letter or spirit of the basic law that preserves them should not happen,” Hunt added.

Responding to Hunt’s statement, the Hong Kong government said there are existing established mechanisms to deal with the June 12 incident, and it is not appropriate for other governments to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police force said it will continue to look for and purchase equipment suitable for its actions and related procurement will be made based on the government’s established procedures.

Many local activists and groups in Hong Kong have demanded that an independent commission of inquiry be established to determine what really happened, but the government has not given any response.

On Tuesday, a joint signature campaign for such a probe was launched. Signatories include the Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom, Reclaiming Social Work Movement, Progressive Lawyers Group, and Financier Conscience, as well as several prominent figures such as retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Johannes Chan Man-mun, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong.

Billy Li On-yin, convenor of Progressive Lawyers Group, said the independent panel should focus its investigations on whether officers followed the guidelines on the use of force when handling the clashes and whether it was the officers or protesters who first resorted to the use of force.

Former chief secretary for administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang disagreed with some people’s view that setting up the commission would hurt the morale of the police force, saying comprehensive review and investigation made by the panel would ease dissension from both sides.

Chan also suggested that the panel should be led by a judge who is credible with the public so that highly transparent and impartial decisions could be made.

Article originally appeared in ejinsight on 26 June 2019