Hong Kong police chief calls on public to understand ‘tremendous pressure’ faced by officers in Occupy protests
Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung also stopped short of apologising for conduct of seven officers found guilty of assault
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung has asked the public to understand the tremendous pressure shouldered by the force’s men and women during the 2014 Occupy movement, after seven officers were jailed for assaulting activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu.
Lo’s remarks came as more than a thousand people showed their support for the force by protesting against the sentence in Central on Saturday.
“This is a serious incident and is unprecedented,” Lo said at a passing out parade at the Police College on Saturday, a day after the court ruling. “[We] are very sad about the whole incident. The case did affect the whole force.”
The police chief said in the past that he would not allow any of his colleagues to break the law, and that he would apologise for any wrongdoing by the force.
When asked repeatedly if he would do the same for the officers in this case, Lo said he would not comment at this stage as the seven were considering filing an appeal.
He urged the public to understand that the 79-day mass disobedience movement in 2014 was “unprecedented”. “We did not have enough manpower. Each officer worked more than 15 hours daily on average. [They faced] insufficient resources, tremendous pressure and long hours of work and fatigue,” he said.
“My colleagues and I felt heartache and sadness to see our peers being involved in a criminal case and have to bear such consequences when they were exercising their duty at work.”
Lo added that although he should be responsible to all citizens, he had to support his fellow officers and their families.
More than a thousand people, including members from Alliance In Support Of Our Police Force, joined PolitiHK Social Strategic, a pro-government activist group, to march from Chater Garden in Central to the police headquarters in Wan Chai on Saturday afternoon to protest against the sentence.
Protesters were heard shouting insults directed at David Dufton – the British judge who sent the seven officers to prison. One member dressed up as a judge and claimed he was a “dog”.
Justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung repeatedly warned against inappropriate criticism of the judiciary and said follow-up action would be taken.
Lawyer Kevin Yam, convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group, said such action could amount to contempt of court. “By looking at the purpose of the rally, it is clear that they were implicating the judiciary and the judge involved,” he said.
Retired officers were among the protesters.
“What the seven officers did was wrong. But the sentence was too harsh compared to other convictions related to Occupy movement,” said a retired policeman, who did not want to be named.
The organiser claimed 3,500 people had joined the rally, but the police said around 1,800 participated.