Hong Kong police chiefs rush to repair damage over remarks comparing jailed officers to Jews persecuted by Nazis
Force will meet German and Israeli consulates offended by sergeant’s Holocaust reference at rally
Hong Kong police chiefs are scrambling to contain the international fallout after two foreign diplomatic missions in the city objected to local officers being compared with Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
The controversy arose during a mass rally on Wednesday night by tens of thousands of serving and former officers and their supporters against the jailing of seven colleagues for assaulting an Occupy activist in 2014. An officer went on stage to declare that police were being victimised like those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
The German consulate issued a statement on Friday saying the comparison was “utterly inappropriate”. It echoed a statement by the Israeli consulate on Thursday, calling the reference “inappropriate and regretful” and demanding no further comparisons be made to the Holocaust.
A police source familiar with the matter said the force had decided to arrange meetings with the two consulates, hoping to explain the situation and clear up any misunderstanding.
“We need to stress to them that the comment does not represent the force and we disagree with the comment as well,” the source said. “We have to explain to them the whole situation before the matter gets any worse.”
Another senior police source described the situation as “out of control” and worried that the controversy was embarrassing the force and hurting its image on the international stage.
“The consulates could make a formal complaint to the SAR government,” he said. “This would be very serious and damaging if it happens. It would become a diplomatic issue that the force cannot handle.”
The source also noted that the officer responsible could have breached police discipline regulations, which ban conduct that could bring public service into disrepute or affect order and discipline.
A police spokesman said the force had received complaints related to the rally but refused to reveal details. “We will handle the complaints fairly in accordance to the mechanism,” he said.
Police morale has taken a beating with the sentencing of the seven officers to two-year jail terms for beating up activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the height of the Occupy protests.
Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and founding president of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said she and honorary president Edward Leong Chi-hung had set up a fund to accept public donations in support of the seven officers.
Video footage taken at the gathering of some 33,000 people on Wednesday in Mong Kok shows an officer, identified as a station sergeant from the elite Special Tactical Squad, on stage working the crowd. “It’s like we’re now in the second world war. We are Jews facing the persecution of the Nazis, aren’t we?” he says. The crowd yells “yes” in response.
Meanwhile two police unions have written to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, urging him to criminalise insulting behaviour against public servants.
“Any insult to them means an insult to the rule of law and public order in the city,” a union member said.