Retiring police chief stands by protest policy
Outgoing police commissioner Tang King-shing yesterday stood by what critics believe was a 'tougher' approach to protests, saying the force needed to strike a balance in the interests of different members of the public.
He also defended his apologies over a series of controversies, which he said was a show of accountability.
During his four years as commissioner, there were some controversial arrests of protesters. Six activists, including lawmakers 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung and Lee Cheuk-yan, were arrested for unlawful assembly after rallying for the release of dissident Liu Xiaobo at the central government liaison office in Western on December 24, 2009. They were acquitted almost a year later on December 21 last year.
Activist Ip Ho-yee was arrested last year for common assault after spilling champagne on a security guard outside the central government liaison office, while celebrating the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Liu. The government decided not to prosecute her.
Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme yesterday, Tang said the interests of those who did not take part in protests should also be respected.
'There are not only citizens expressing their own opinions in this world. At the same time, there are also other citizens in this society who want to continue their daily life,' he said. 'We wish on one hand to facilitate citizens expressing their opinions, and on the other hand to minimise the disturbance to others.'
Asked if there were any pressures from 'higher authority' to tighten freedom of expression, Tang said the force's policy on protests had never changed.
'We uphold freedom of speech and respect citizens' freedom of speech and expression, too,' he said. But he did not respond directly as to whether the police had 'special treatment' for protesters rallying outside the central government liaison office.
Tang, who is to be succeeded by deputy commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung tomorrow , was dubbed 'Sorry sir' for openly apologising to victims of police scandals at least three times, all in 2009.
He apologised to drivers who were ordered by officers to form a 'human roadblock' to stop illegal racing cars in Kwun Tong, victims who were raped and molested by a detective in Mong Kok police station, and a Fanling school after its name was leaked as the scene of an undercover drugs operation.
Tang admitted that some officers were unhappy about him apologising so many times. But he saw it as the right thing to do as it showed the force was willing to bear responsibility.
'For something serious that shocks society and worries citizens, if I, as a police commissioner, do not come out and say sorry, who is coming out for that?' he said.
However, the commissioner did not comment on whether the integrity and quality of some officers was lacking. He understood that public expectation of officers was high and stressed that the force had a mechanism to handle such officers.