'We are not your enemies': Occupy Central’s Benny Tai apologises for worrying officers
Organiser apologises, while officers say protesters aren’t ‘bad guys’
Occupy Central co-organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting has called on police not to regard civil disobedience activists as "provoking quarrels and making trouble", because they would not regard frontline police as enemies.
Tai made his call in an article published in Apple Daily yesterday in which he also praised the police for "restraint and professionalism" in arresting 511 activists who staged a sit-in on Chater Road after the July 1 march.
His article came a week after the Junior Police Officers' Association (JPOA) was criticised for using a mainland phrase - often translated into English as "provoking quarrels and making trouble" - to describe the behaviour of the sit-in protesters. The criminal charge is regularly used against dissidents and rights activists on the mainland.
In the article yesterday, Tai also said he was "deeply sorry" that Occupy Central had worried "many frontline policemen".
Association chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong replied that the police would not regard any protesters as enemies or "bad guys".
He said while he appreciated Tai's praise and apology, "the biggest joy for police officers is Hong Kong's public order being retained after their hard work".
Tai wrote that if there were 10,000 people occupying Central in the protest planned by his group, and if police chiefs ordered that they be removed, "police officers could face criticism from various sides … I could imagine and feel that kind of enormous pressure".
He added: "Undertakers of civil disobedience won't see frontline police officers as enemies … so I hope that even if police cannot agree with [protestors'] political demands or their methods, please do not regard them as bad people challenging the police's authority.
"They are definitely not provoking quarrels and making trouble either."
Chan said police would regard those who broke the law as people they needed to bring to justice. "We won't regard anyone as our enemies," he said. "And whether someone is provoking quarrels and making trouble will depend on whether the law is being broken."
In the article, Tai also dismissed Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung's remarks that "as long as the police force is doing their job in strict accordance with the law, there won't be any problem about acting against one's conscience".
Tai said he hoped that before police officers executed commands from their chiefs, they would think, as citizens, about whether those commands were the best for the police, for the government and for Hong Kong.
But Chan said police officers would be fulfilling their civic responsibilities if they did their job and enforced the law.