I have a right to speak, says retiring officer
"I too have human rights, and I cannot exercise my rights if I am not allowed to speak my mind," former police superintendant Gregory Lau Tat-keung said yesterday.
Lau was defending his address to a pro-police rally on Sunday after critics said he had no right to have done so as an officer on pre-retirement leave.
The police force had received more than 300 complaints about Lau addressing the protest by last night.
The emotionally charged rally in Mong Kok saw about 2,800 protesters exchanging insults over a teacher who yelled abuse at police at a rally a couple of weeks ago.
Lau said as he was on pre-retirement leave after turning 55, it was not up to the Civil Service Bureau to decide if he could attend.
But the bureau said yesterday that officers on pre-retirement leave generally were still subject to civil service regulations.
However, the police force said an officer on pre-retirement leave who had handed in his warrant card was no longer on duty. It said the force would handle such cases according to established procedures.
During his 36-year career, the former superintendent of Sham Shui Po district was known as a top negotiator.
Last year, Lau was awarded the Hong Kong Humanity Award for having saved the lives of more than 200 people who were on the verge of committing suicide since he became a negotiator in 1990.
Negotiation aside, Lau and his team solved the MTR arson attack case in Admiralty in 2004 in which 14 passengers were injured.
His team launched an intensive hunt and tracked down the culprit within 38 hours.
Regarding Sunday's rally, Lau said the fact that he saw "many many many" retired and off-duty officers show up reflected the mounting stress on frontline police officers.
"This is not a declaration of war, but society needs to understand that the police force cannot exercise its duties unless it has the respect of the public," he said.
Lau said he personally did not think there was need for a law at the moment to penalise those who insulted police.