Pro-police rally in Mong Kok not political, force says

Mong Kok event was not an activity bound by rules that govern officers’ behaviour, police say in a row over the presence of a retiring officer

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 4:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 10:09am

A pro-police rally that descended into chaos in Mong Kok on Sunday was not a political event, the police force has concluded.

In a statement yesterday, it also empathised with what frontline officers had to put up with in discharging their duties.

The police respect people's right of expression, and at the same time, expect people would grant their respect and support to the frontline police officers

Separately, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor voiced their support for the force.

The police statement came after a retiring superintendent took part in the rally, held after a teacher was filmed hurling abuse at officers on July 14.

But the police definition of what constituted a political rally, which was repeated at a meeting between the senior management and four police associations, met with reservations from members of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

In its statement, the force said that as officers on pre-retirement leave were not authorised to discharge constabulary duties, their views and deeds in general would not interfere with the impartial discharge of police duties.

An officer shall not take part in political activities, which include lending support to or joining in the political activities of a political organisation, and speaking publicly on matters of a political nature other than in the course of official duties, it said. Based on the information available, the force considered the rally was not a political activity restricted by the general orders that governed officers' behaviour.

"The police respect people's right of expression, and at the same time, expect people would grant their respect and support to the frontline police officers," it said. "The force management understands the frontline officers' sentiments of being insulted by abusive languages in the course of discharging duties, and believe many people share the same sentiments."

Leung said the police would take "resolute and effective actions" according to law against people who deliberately obstructed officers.

Lam said she understood how frontline officers felt as her niece was a police inspector.

Alpais Lam Wai-sze, the teacher who sparked the Mong Kok rally, said she did not understand why the police did not regard it as political.

IPCC secretary general Ricky Chu Man-kin had earlier said the rally was of a political nature, and yesterday council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said he had reservations about the police decision.

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, who was among protesters against the rally, said the definition "distorts the common understanding of a political event".

By last night, the force said it had received 590 complaints over the officer who spoke at the rally.