Police groups decry violent protests
Updated: 2019-07-06 06:36
By Joseph Li in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
Association representatives say protesters’ actions appear to have been well-planned
The siege of the Hong Kong Police Headquarters in the past few weeks and the storming of the Legislative Council Complex on Monday were blatant challenges to the city’s rule of law, and the protesters’ methods suggest that their actions were well-planned and organized, heads of local police associations said.
Despite unprecedented difficulties, all four associations vowed to stay loyal to their job to maintain law and order in Hong Kong, they said.
Chief Inspector Wilkie Ng Wai-kei, chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association, said Hong Kong people enjoy freedoms of speech and assembly as stipulated in local legislation and the Basic Law, but demonstrations must be peaceful and orderly.
In recent demonstrations that were triggered by controversy over the proposed extradition-law amendments, the large majority of protesters were peaceful, but some radical ones did not obey the law.
The two sieges of the police headquarters within a week last month were outrageous and a challenge to the rule of law because the protesters thought they had more than enough people to surround the headquarters, Ng said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
“Our deployment strategy was to let them voice their grievances, hoping they would leave after doing so. Police showed very great restraint in order not to aggravate the situation,” he said. “But since another siege took place in one week, we needed to devise new deployment plans.”
Referring to recent protests which turned violent, he said some protesters violently attacked police officers with “self-made” weapons such as sharpened pipes, bricks and steel barriers. In addition, some protesters aimed laser pens at police officers’ eyes – behavior that could have blinded them.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung at one point described the June 12 chaos as a riot.
“I totally agree that the level of violence on June 12 was more than that of an unlawful assembly. The level of violence on that day was comparable to the level of violence used in the 1967 riots,” he said.
Ng said he was dismayed that some people suggested that those who were arrested in the protests should be released and even pardoned.
“Those who make these suggestions do not respect the rule of law,” he said. “They encourage other people to commit crimes because they may think they can commit crimes without being punished if they have more than enough people to commit crimes together.”
The four police staff associations are united in their opposition to suggestions for an inquiry into force used by police in recent incidents, he said. In their opinion, any investigation should be conducted only by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), which is the normal, longstanding and effective mechanism to deal with complaints against the police, Ng said.
‘Hardcore people behind the scenes’
At the same interview, Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said he was on duty at Victoria Park to handle the demonstrations of June 9 and 16 and Monday, and noted that most participants were peaceful.
“Yet as they approached the destination, some 2,000 protesters led the attacks and turned the peaceful marches into violent scenes. Their actions were well-planned and maneuvered and I suppose there were definitely hardcore people behind the scenes to be the commanders to dispatch messages and control the activities,” he said.
For example, they told other protesters not to use Octopus cards when traveling on the metro trains in order not to leave any records, and to wear masks and gloves to conceal their identities.
“Their organizational ability was very strong, using advanced telecommunications software to communicate with one another. They had also countless resources, with the media reporting that tools and supplies such as helmets were delivered to the scene by trucks. Also, some organizations provided 24-hour shelter to the protesters, as well as water and food and other supplies,” he said.
Lam also said that he had seen many social activists in the past, yet the modus operandi of the protesters this time was more advanced than before. From his experience and news coverage, he believes that the protesters leading the attacks were not ordinary people or students. It is hard to imagine the protests were not well-planned, he said, echoing comments of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who said the attacks were launched by “very professional people” and suggested that external forces were involved.
Lam said the level of violence in the June 12 storming of the LegCo Complex totally fit the definition of a riot as outlined in the Public Order Ordinance.
Like Ng, Lam said the police staff associations are strongly opposed to an inquiry into the police, saying they would accept only the IPCC as the established investigation channel. If people want to investigate, they may investigate whatever they like, but they should leave the police alone, Lam added.
“What is their motive, and what do they want to investigate? As can be seen from the ‘seven cops’ case (of 2014) and the case of (former) superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai, who were charged and found guilty after an investigation by the IPCC, the IPCC is an effective mechanism,” he said.
Lam dismissed as divisive the comments by some people that police officers are politically neutral civil servants but they are unfortunately caught between the government and the citizens and are exploited by the government as political tools.
“The sole duty of the police force is to maintain law and order in Hong Kong. The row we face now originated from the extradition-law amendments, but we will use the same standard when we deal with other political incidents. Whoever the chief executive is, we will not be used as political tools or being vilified for political reasons,” he said.
“Some people attempt to polarize the police force with divisive comments, to polarize the government and the police force, and to polarize the police force and the citizens. Our staff morale remain high despite such unprecedented difficulties. Our colleagues in the police force share the same goal and stay united to ensure law enforcement is not affected.”
Last month, representatives of the four staff unions met with Police Commissioner Stephen Lo to exchange views. Lam said they talked about the issues of staff morale, the difficulties ahead of them, and possible solutions. More importantly, the staff unions told Lo that they will stay loyal to their duties and this is also what Lo wants them to do.
Lo promised at the meeting that additional safety gear such as eye masks and helmets with protective screens will be purchased for the benefit of the policemen.
Lam was also grateful that the management has initiated to provide counseling and psychological services to the affected officers.
Lam Chi-wai (left), chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association of the Hong Kong Police Force, and Wilkie Ng Wai-kei, chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association, at police headquarters in Wan Chai on Friday. Roy Liu / China Daily
(HK Edition 07/06/2019 page2)