Police threaten to go beyond the law
Everyone frets about how the new government under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will threaten Hong Kong's civil liberties. But the official we should be most worried about is the police chief.
I am not talking about the frequent use of concentrated pepper spray and the deployment of large numbers of police at major events such as the July 1 handover commemoration. They are par for the course and are commonly employed in democratic countries. The rowdy behaviour of some protesters invites officers to spray them.
Rather, under his reign, Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung has allowed his officers to arrest, detain and question peaceful demonstrators at will and without cause. Coupled with reports that the police college is teaching Communist Party theory as advanced by former president Jiang Zemin, there is serious cause for concern. An unmistakable pattern has emerged:
Wong Kin, a resident of Laguna City, was arrested for doing nothing other than wearing a June 4 protest T-shirt, by men in black suits who he said refused to identify themselves during Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit in August to a private estate in Lam Tin. They turned out to be policemen and Tsang said Wong had entered what the police chief arbitrarily termed a 'core security zone'.
Three protesting students were detained in the stairwell of a campus building during Li's visit to the University of Hong Kong in Pok Fu Lam. Again, they had done nothing other than enter what Tsang called a 'core security zone'.
Local reporter Rex Hon Yiu-ting was detained and questioned on June 30 after shouting a question at President Hu Jintao about June 4. Hon was in a media area at the same time as other reporters shouting questions, though not about the 1989 crackdown.
There have been other incidents where protesters were isolated and asked to 'calm down'. Tsang drew flak in each incident. But despite his denial, critics must challenge him to determine whether a new, suppressive practice with no force in law is being covertly implemented within the police.