Fair handling of Occupy Central beating case will restore trust between Hong Kong’s police and public
The police’s U-turn on the Franklin Chu King-wai case can avert further clashes and help restore the watchdog’s credibility as well as the force’s image
Hong Kong police have a hard-earned reputation of being one of Asia’s finest forces. It owes this not just to its professionalism and discipline, but also to the safeguards put in place to enhance public accountability and trust. Recently, the latter has been clouded in the wake of the pro-democracy Occupy protests last year, with questions raised over the action of individual officers during the operation. The controversy has seriously undermined relations between the police and the community.
The latest twist in a high-profile complaint arising from the stand-off has given hope for a change. The force had earlier dismissed a case against superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai for allegedly assaulting a passer-by with his baton during an operation. But it finally backed down and amended the case as “substantiated”, after the Independent Police Complaints Council had ruled in favour of the complainant. Chu has already retired this summer. Legal advice is being sought on whether prosecution should follow.
For a force that enjoys high public respect, allegations of abuse must be handled seriously. Chu’s case sparked an uproar as the incident, captured and broadcast widely by news media, left little doubt about what had happened. Under the current mechanism, the chief executive has to step in if the watchdog and the force cannot agree on the outcome of a case. Had the force maintained its view, tension would have surged further.
Public trust is of paramount importance to the police. Similarly, the watchdog’s ability to operate hinges on confidence in its independence and police cooperation. The police’s U-turn can avert further clashes and help restore the watchdog’s credibility as well as the force’s image.
The force, overall, exercised due restraint during the Occupy operations. The assault is just an insolated case. The authorities should handle the case fairly, which can help improve relations between the police and the public.