New police guideline to handle public insults criticised

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 5:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 7:05am

The new police guideline instructing officers on how to handle verbal insults from the public has failed to please lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Pan-democratic legislators said no meaningful discussion was possible since the police had so far refused to make public the full version of the guideline. Pro-establishment legislators were unhappy that it did not give police more power and again urged the government to make insulting police an offence.

According to the principles of the new guideline, which kicked in on March 12, officers are instructed to tell anyone insulting them to stop. If the insults continue, officers can warn them that they could be arrested.

The guideline is intended to help frontline officers "keep a clear head" in tense situations and when deciding whether the law had been broken, undersecretary for security John Lee Ka-chiu, told a Legislative Council security panel meeting yesterday.

But pan-democratic lawmakers slammed the police for not making public the full guideline, which even the police watchdog had yet to see.

In response, Lee said the Independent Police Complaints Council was consulted and its advice had been included in the guideline.

"Police officers should not enjoy more protection than other public office holders," said lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, who suggested the public should likewise be protected from insults from the police.

Pro-Beijing lawmakers, on the other hand, were dissatisfied that the guideline failed to "give officers more protection".

"Both police and judges represent the rule of law … but only hurling insults at judges is an offence," said tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who was among the many pro-establishment lawmakers who wanted a legal ban on insulting officers.

In reply, Lee reiterated the government's stance that it had no plans to pass such a law.