The Occupy Central pro-democracy movement would not damage the city's rule of law as long as it remained peaceful, the chief of the police watchdog said on his last day in office.
The statement by Jat Sew-tong, whose term as chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council ended yesterday, follows Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's warning that Occupy Central "is definitely unlawful regardless of its motive" and law-breaking activities would not be tolerated.
"[Occupy Central] would not damage Hong Kong's rule of law," said Jat, a senior counsel who has been heading the council supervising the 28,000-strong police force since 2008.
"Even parking contraventions breach the law - but I don't think parking contraventions jeopardise the rule of law. My understanding, at least, is that Occupy Central is a peaceful [effort]."
Jat quoted a British Lord Chancellor as calling civil disobedience an excellent tradition.
It could serve to display the rule of law at work, he believed.
"Civil disobedience … with some appropriate punishment can be a manifestation of the rule of law," he said on a radio show.
Jat added that he was stating the facts, not encouraging people to join the movement.
"It is crucial that participants are clear about the legal liability of the move," he said.
The outgoing council chief is not worried about the mainland political links of his successor Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, which have led some to question the watchdog's impartiality.
Kwok, a corporate finance solicitor who chairs the transport advisory committee under the Transport and Housing Bureau, was a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate from Guangxi province for more than a decade until about a year ago.
"It doesn't matter if he is a CPPCC member," Jat said.
"It would be fairer to judge [Kwok] by his actions. The most crucial thing is how the chairman works and cooperation from other members. After all, the commission … has 24 members, with various backgrounds."
He hoped the council would examine the deteriorating ties between the police and the people, and how to simplify complaints procedures.