33,000 gather in support of Hong Kong officers jailed for beating up Occupy protester Ken Tsang
Huge turnout threatens to escalate already significant chorus of criticism aimed at District Court Judge David Dufton and judiciary
Hong Kong witnessed one of the most significant mass demonstrations in its history last night when 33,000 serving and former police officers held a show of support for colleagues who were jailed for assaulting an activist during the 2014 Occupy protests.
The mass rally, held on a soccer pitch at the Police Sports and Recreation Club in Mong Kok, was described by one officer in attendance as “the largest-ever single gathering of police officers the world has ever seen”.
The last time the city’s police were involved in a such a large-scale display of discontent was almost half a century ago, in the bad old days of the 1970s. That was when thousands of officers took to the streets to protest against the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
However, last night’s show of discontent – which was closed to the media – stood in stark contrast to the often ill-tempered nature of the 1970s protests. The massed ranks of mostly former police officers were out to register – with a disciplined dignity – their condemnation of what they believe to be the harsh and unjust treatment of seven colleagues by the city’s judicial system.
The remarkable scenes, with many turning up in white as a mark of solidarity, followed the jailing for two years of seven officers for assaulting Occupy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, 41. The sentencing sparked an outpouring of condemnation by police officers and sections of the public, who complained that the courts were being far more lenient by comparison with Occupy protesters who broke the law.
Another officer at the rally, which included a significant number of family members of serving and ex-police officers, said: “This is not a protest against the courts or Hong Kong’s judicial system, nor an attempt to undermine the rule of law.
“It is a deep and heartfelt expression of genuine support for our colleagues and their families, who we feel have been unfairly treated and whose actions came out of a time of highly charged political emotion and stress.”
Prominent among those who made an appearance was former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, now a candidate for the city’ top job, along with National People’s Congress deputy Maria Tam, who took to the stage and addressed the crowd, calling for assistance for the families of the seven jailed officers.
Other personalities attending included lawmakers Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Elizabeth Quat and Junius Ho Kwan-yiu.
Despite Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung’s sympathy for the jailed officers and earlier plea for public understanding of their predicament, none of the force’ s top brass turned up.
It is believed that only serving officers up to the rank of chief superintendent took part. The Post had earlier been told that at least one former assistant commissioner would attend, but this could not be confirmed last night.
The huge turnout threatens to escalate an already significant chorus of criticism aimed at District Court Judge David Dufton and the judiciary as a whole.
Asked if the top brass were also in attendance, an officer at the meeting said: “No only up to Chief Superintendent level.”
The jailed officers, whose careers appear to be over, are: Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing, 50; Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 31; Detective Sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 43; Constable Lau Hing-pui, 39; and detective constables Wong Wai-ho, 38, Chan Siu-tan, 33, and Kwan Ka-ho, 33.
All denied assaulting Tsang, a social worker, in a dark corner of Tamar Park, Admiralty, on the night of October 15, 2014, at the height of the pro-democracy protests. But they were found guilty on one joint count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, with Chan also convicted of common assault.
A TV news crew filmed the attack, which, when aired at the time, sparked outrage.
The seven officers last night remained behind bars in the city’s maximum security Stanley Prison.
Joe Chan Cho-kwong, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said he was surprised by the number of people who showed up at the gathering.
He said his association and three other police staff associations – the Superintendents’ Association, the Police Inspectors’ Association and the Overseas Inspectors’ Association – would write to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urging legislation that would ban insulting acts against public officers on duty.
“We hope that all public officers would not be insulted in the future and the laws would not be just for the police, but for all public officers,” Chan said.
He expected it would be difficult to legislate, but said the government should strive to do something.
In response to the gathering, a police spokesman said force management understood the event had been organised by two concerned staff associations to report on what they had done to help their seven colleagues.
The spokesman added that management would continue to work with the associations to help the seven and their families.
He said the force would have an open mind on any new laws or measures that could ensure effective law enforcement.