Police chief says sorry ... again

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am

Police Commissioner Tang King-shing said sorry yet again yesterday - this time to a Fanling school after its name was leaked as the scene of an undercover drugs operation.

It was the police chief's third apology in five months, but critics said this one might have come too early, particularly when the identity of the person who leaked the school's name to the press remained unknown.

Tang yesterday said he had called Joyce Kwok Yin-mei, the principal of the Church of Christ in China Kei San Secondary School, to offer an apology and to tell her that an assistant commissioner would lead an investigation into the leak.

Security minister Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong also apologised to the school on Friday.

Kwok said she was angry with police on Thursday after media reports that the school had allowed a policewoman to work undercover during an anti-drugs operation in Fanling.

The principal said police had promised to keep all information confidential and the leak had harmed the school's reputation.

The police operation resulted in the arrest of 36 people, of whom seven were charged. In related cases, the District Court last week jailed two drug dealers, aged 17 and 19, for ketamine trafficking.

Tang said disciplinary action would be taken if police officers were found to be responsible for the leak.

Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a political scientist at City University, said Tang's apology had come a bit too early and the public might perceive it as the police admitting they had done something wrong.

'It shows on the one hand that the force is very eager to appease the school, while on the other hand it was like confessing that the information was leaked by police officers,' he said. The fact that the apology was issued by the head of the force before the investigation was over might also hit the morale of frontline police officers, Sung added.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun urged Tang to elaborate on the early apology. 'The force might have gathered information that indicates its officers might be held responsible for the leak,' he said. 'It should tell the public as soon as possible.'

Police Inspectors' Association chairman Tony Liu Kit-ming said police had failed to protect the school's confidentiality and an apology was appropriate. And he dismissed concerns about police morale. 'We have to admit it if we really did something wrong and improve afterwards,' he said.

Tang made a public apology in July, the first since he took office, over a case in which police ordered several drivers to form a 'human roadblock' on a highway to stop an illegal car race. The resulting pile-up left six people injured. He said then that the officers involved had made 'an error of judgment'.

A month later, Tang apologised again - to the victims of a detective constable who admitted raping a young woman and indecently assaulting her and three others.