Li Keqiang

Officers didn't overstep mark, police chief says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung denied yesterday that his officers had overstepped security arrangements agreed with the University of Hong Kong ahead of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the Pok Fu Lam campus last summer.

Tsang (pictured) also insisted that only a 'minimal level of force' had been used on protesters.

The remarks came a day after a HKU review committee accused police of using 'unjustifiable and unreasonable force' on protesters; of breaching an agreement with the university that absolutely no force would be used; and of extending previously agreed restricted areas.

Tsang reiterated that the arrangements were a result of agreements with HKU management, adding: 'What officers did was also in accordance with existing guidelines. No excessive force was used.'

He said that he would study the committee's report in detail and consider its recommendations to improve communications in future events. 'We will do better next time and we will learn from this experience.'

HKU's report said that during Li's visit in August, police pushed student protesters into a stairwell even though they posed no threat.

Tsang said he was prepared to face a legal challenge from one of the protesters, student Samuel Li Shing-hong, who has said he is considering taking the police to court. He claims he was falsely imprisoned when he was confined in the stairwell.

But the HKU report concluded the police action did not amount to false imprisonment as the students could have left the stairwell if they had wanted to, evidence showed.

The debacle at the university's centennial celebration ceremony pushed the institution into crisis mode, with vice-chancellor Tsui Lap-chee announcing he would depart at the end of his current contract. Rumours that political pressure from Beijing was behind his decision and the security arrangements have been dismissed by university officials.

The review panel did, however, hold Tsui responsible for administrative blunders behind the debacle and bad judgment.

Legislator James To Kun-sun yesterday urged police to respect HKU's autonomy for events held at the school campus. 'They are just an agent. They should respect the views of the university and should not do anything against their will, even when it is minimal [force],' he said.

Critics have said the treatment of protesters as well as seating arrangements for the ceremony, which put Li centre stage, have tainted HKU's reputation for upholding academic freedom and freedom of expression.

Other than Tsui - who has agreed to remain in his post until a successor is found - the school's registrar Henry Wai Wing-kun was also singled out for criticism in the university's report.

But the committee did not name any names when it came to who in the police force should shoulder responsibility for the blunder.