'Cop's cop' looks set to lead police through transition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 March, 1994, 12:00am

DEPUTY Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on, 50, will bring a wealth of operational experience to the top job when he is installed to lead the fight against crime through 1997, according to senior officers.

An appointment as commissioner is a virtual foregone conclusion. Only the timing is uncertain, but sources in the upper echelons of the force predict he will get the nod within the year. His reign will probably straddle 1997 and end with retirement in 2000 when he turns 57.

Commissioner Li Kwan-ha, 56, and his deputy (operations) are said to enjoy a good working relationship, tempered by the inevitability of Mr Hui being passed the baton and carrying it through the most critical period in Hong Kong policing history.

The force under Mr Li has seen a strengthening relationship with mainland law enforcement agencies, even as China and the Hong Kong and British governments have been at loggerheads on everything else.

Sustaining the vital ties with top Chinese counterparts after the departure of Mr Li, who joined the force in 1957 and became Commissioner in late 1989, would be one of his successor's highest priorities, sources said.

''Despite the hard time he has had with the media, [Mr Li] has established relations with China and crime has gone down,'' a top-ranking officer said.

''His greatest achievement is our relationship with China. We would certainly hope that could be sustained when he's gone.'' The fight against mainland-driven crime would be enhanced by the yet-to-be announced appointment of Tsang Yam-pui, who enjoys good ties with the Guangdong Public Security Bureau and China's Interpol, as Senior Assistant Commissioner (Director of Crime Investigation), sources said. He has been Regional Commander Hong Kong Island for a few months.

Mr Hui's curriculum vitae, with its accent on operational experience, demonstrates why he is the most popular choice of the rank and file.

''He's a cop's cop. He's done the hard slog and he doesn't forget it. He has common sense, practical ability and uses sound judgment,'' said a top officer close to Mr Hui.

Before his police career began, the Hong Kong-born and educated Mr Hui stamped himself as top-drawer potential by winning a baton of honour as most outstanding student in the 1963 inspectors intake at police training school.

A former head of Narcotics and former Regional Commander for Kowloon, he has been increasingly groomed as the leading candidate for Commissioner for several years, sources said.

''What is pleasant about the guy is he's not arrogant at all. He's very approachable and accessible. And he's not a power seeker,'' said the officer.

These personality traits could help engineer a turning point in public relations.

especially involving sections of the media which troubled Mr Li.