Hong Kong police union leader urges colleagues to maintain morale and regain public trust

The force’s reputation may be in doubt with recent news of officers arrested by the ICAC, and ‘smearing’ comments published in books

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 12:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 12:33pm

The image of the city’s law enforcers may have taken a hit following the recent arrests of three policemen by the corruption watchdog, but officers should provide “mutual encouragement” to each other to improve and restore public trust, a police union leader has said.

Junior Police Officers’ Association chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong was referring to an operation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which on Tuesday led to the arrests of two senior officers and a constable as part of a probe into cash-for-tip-offs allegations involving two nightclubs in Wan Chai.

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The commission said the investigation centred on accusations involving “a substantial amount of bribes in cash and other forms of advantages from the nightclub operators and their associates as rewards for tipping them off to impending police enforcement action against the nightclubs”.

Asked on a radio programme whether the reputation of the police force – long hailed as one of the world’s finest – would be marred by the ICAC revelations, Chan said: “I believe there will definitely be some impact [on the force’s image]. But I can only tell my colleagues – encourage each other and urge on one another.

“This is what we can do to improve the force and maintain public confidence.”

Chan had only a day earlier issued an open letter to union members hours before news of the ICAC probe broke, defending them against recent online and published remarks “smearing” and “insulting” the force.

One of the latest examples of published material detrimental to the force’s image was a book alleging that police officers engaged in dubious behaviour such as buying stocks in the office or browsing explicit sites on their computers.

The book was published by activist group Passion Times and is being sold at the Lunar New Year market in Victoria Park.

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“Even saints will inevitably make small mistakes,” Chan penned in his letter to colleagues, adding that many of them worked hard or had even lost their lives to uphold Hong Kong’s law and order.

He reiterated the points in the radio interview on Thursday, saying that while police misconduct should be taken seriously, it was unfair to put even “minor” mishaps under a magnifying glass.

Earlier this week police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung revealed that 30 officers were arrested last year for offences ranging from assault and theft to rape and drug possession.

Of the 30, six officers were arrested by the ICAC and three by the Customs and Excise Department. In 2015 the force arrested 15 of its officers, while the anti-graft agency arrested 16.

Lo had admitted there were “bad apples” in the force but stressed that “99.9 per cent” of them were committed to serving the public.