‘It’s the last thing we need’: Hong Kong police officers reject invitation from chief executive front runner Carrie Lam

Associations and the force’s management cite political neutrality as reason for declining request to attend briefing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 9:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 11:45pm

The rank and file of Hong Kong’s police force has rejected an invitation to a manifesto briefing by the putative favourite to become the city’s next leader, over concerns that to attend would compromise the force’s political neutrality.

But members of the city’s four other disciplined services – fire, customs, immigration and correctional services – will send representatives to the meeting on Thursday afternoon.

At least two police staff associations declined the invitation from former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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Joe Chan Cho-kwong, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, confirmed the union had been invited to the briefing.

“If we are to maintain political neutrality, it would be inappropriate for the association to meet a chief executive candidate individually,” Chan said.

He said the association would only consider going to events with all candidates present.

Donny Mak Kam-fai, vice-chairman of the Government Disciplined Services General Union, said he would go to the meeting to better understand Lam’s manifesto, but his attendance did not mean the union supported her.

And chairman of the Fire Services Officers’ Association, Yang Kin-sang, said his union was also invited and would attend.

“I understand that Lam wants to show her manifesto and seek support from the civil servants,” Yang said. “I also want to urge more welfare for fire services personnel. From this point of view, our attendance has nothing to do with political neutrality.”

Detective Chief Inspector Ron Abbott, chairman of the police’s Overseas Inspectors’ Association, said his group was invited, but would not attend.

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“In recent weeks a number of politicians have surfaced, especially from one side of the political spectrum, uttering support for the police,” Abbott said.

“I think it is the last thing we need. It’s essential that the force remains politically neutral.

“I am sure that Carrie Lam’s invitation is well intentioned, but I don’t think it is appropriate for us to attend given her current position.”

The force’s management backed the unions’ stances.

A spokesman for the force said: “The police have all along been politically neutral and we will continue to carry out our statutory duties in a fair and impartial manner.”

The spokesman said according to Police General Orders, officers should at all times abstain from any activity likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of their duties, or actions that could give the public the impression that they may interfere.

“That includes lending support to, or participating in, political activities of a political organisation, ” he added.

The campaign office of Lam’s main election rival, John Tsang Chun-wah, said he had no plans to meet members of the disciplined services.