Police decry watchdog's description of pro-force rally as a 'political event'

Objections filed against police complaints council chief as dozens of retired officers plan second protest following Mong Kong mayhem

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 August, 2013, 5:40am

Police officers are stepping up their opposition to remarks made by a senior official from the force's watchdog describing a pro-police rally last weekend as a political event.

Dozens have filed complaints, including to the Ombudsman, over the words of Ricky Chu Man-kin, secretary general of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

Meanwhile, up to 40 retired officers were planning a new protest in the city following the mayhem that erupted at Sunday's Mong Kok rally. They intended to gather at the IPCC's office, although no date had been fixed yet, said former policeman Yeung Yiu-ming.

One council member hit back at the complaints, calling the force's official statement on Thursday "incomplete" in denying the political nature of the rally.

Officers accused the independent supervisory body of failing to maintain impartiality. "It's like the judge coming out before the trial and saying these guys are guilty," said former senior superintendent Kevin Laurie, who complained yesterday to the IPCC.

Laurie compared Chu's comment to a "public trial". He said Chu should apologise to the public and should steer clear of any subsequent investigation into how the force defined the event.

The pro-police rally was held on Sunday in Mong Kok, triggered by teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze swearing at officers last month.

It drew off-duty and retired officers, believed to number in the hundreds, and also prompted a counter-rally in support of Lam. Both events together attracted a 2,800-strong crowd to the area.

Chu said on Tuesday that the rally was of a political nature.

By yesterday morning, the IPCC had received 64 complaints against its secretary general.

The Office of the Ombudsman received fewer than 10 complaints, although the IPCC does not fall within the remit of the Ombudsman.

The IPCC said any staff member who was involved in a complaint would not take part in handling the criticism. It declined to comment on the matter, to ensure the impartiality of its complaint handling mechanism.

On Thursday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor threw their weight behind the police. That same day, the police issued a statement saying the rally was not a political activity restricted by the general orders that govern officers' behaviour.

IPCC member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the statement failed to address other important aspects of the force's regulations.

Cheung, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, cited the general orders, which say an officer "shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties, or which is likely to give rise to the impression among members of the public that it may so interfere".

"It is not limited to political activities," he said. "Also, the regulation applies to events that could lead to the public having the impression that the force's impartiality is compromised."

Tung Yiu-ming, vice-chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association, said it would not write to the council to express concerns over Chu's comment. "We dropped the matter after receiving full support from the police management and the chief executive," he added.