Hong Kong lawmakers push for insulting police to be made an offence

Offenders could face three years in jail under a legal amendment sought by the pro-establishment camp, but Democrat dismisses idea as ‘lopsided’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 May, 2017, 11:56pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2017, 2:26am

Insulting law enforcement officers should be made punishable by up to three years in jail, pro-establishment lawmakers proposed on Friday.

Legislators including Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu and Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan had called for legal amendments to allow such prosecutions after seven policemen were jailed in February for attacking a democracy activist who assaulted their colleagues by pouring liquid on them during the 2014 Occupy protests.

Leung said it was time to protect the dignity of law enforcers by adding a new offence under the Public Order Ordinance.

“Any person who utters insulting words, behaves in an insulting manner or exhibits a disturbing or insulting slogan towards a law enforcement officer commits an offence ... and such an offence should be liable to a fine [of HK$2,000],” the barrister and City University law professor proposed.

She said repeat offenders should be punished by a fine of up to HK$5,000 and a year in jail.

Ho called for a term of up to three years’ imprisonment.

He said their proposal would protect policemen as well as officers from the immigration, correctional services, and customs and excise departments, as well as the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Under the Basic Law, lawmakers can introduce bills that do not relate to public expenditure, the city’s political structure or government operations.

Leung conceded it would be difficult for the proposal to be passed in the Legislative Council as a majority would be needed among lawmakers in the city’s geographical constituencies, which are dominated by the opposition pan-democrats.

Therefore, she had discussed her draft with the Department of Justice and hoped the government would issue it as its own bill, which would be easier to pass as this needed only a simple majority of all lawmakers, including the functional constituencies that were the stronghold of the pro-establishment camp.

A justice department spokeswoman said it would handle a lawmaker’s private amendment bill “according to established procedures”.

Leung said she had received more than 30,000 signatures from the public calling for such an amendment.

“Since the Occupy protests, you can see that there is a certain animosity towards the police … and we want to make the environment more reasonable for our officers,” Leung added.

But the pan-democratic camp warned an amendment would add fuel to the fire.

Democrat James To Kun-sun said: “It’s lopsided. If a policeman insults me, I can only [lodge a complaint], but it’s a criminal offence for me to say something he finds abusive ... how would people find it acceptable?”

To said it would be hard to define what constituted a “disturbing or insulting” comment.

His party colleague Lam Cheuk-ting argued that the amendment was unnecessary as it was already a criminal offence to assault or resist a police officer.

A spokesman for the Security Bureau said there were various prevailing legal provisions to provide safeguards to police officers in discharging their duties and the government had no plan to legislate against insults. But it remained open on the issue and would explore the feasibility of an amendment while listening to the views of all parties.