Police used 'unjustifiable' and 'unreasonable' force to contain protesters during the visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to the University of Hong Kong in August, a review committee said yesterday.
Releasing the findings of its four-month investigation, the university review panel singled out HKU vice chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee and registrar Henry Wai Wing-kun for their 'bad judgment' and 'administrative blunders' in overseeing Li's visit.
A legislator said police must apologise and a warning letter should be issued to the two HKU officials who were blamed.
'The police have intruded on the core values of a university and the freedom of expression for students. It is inexcusable,' legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education sector, said. He noted that the review panel did not suggest punishing Tsui or Wai.
Following a meeting that endorsed the review report, HKU Council chairman Dr Leong Che-hung said a task force would be set up to implement the panel's recommendations, including improving the university's capability to hold major events that involve visits by dignitaries.
Leong said the incident involved 'no integrity issue' and that no heads should roll. He said he appreciated the loyalty and determination of HKU's management.
Tsui said he accepted the suggestions of the review panel and reiterated he was not a 'scapegoat'.
The investigation concluded that, while not intentional, the arrangements during Li's visit conveyed the impression that HKU had forsaken its own core values and 'ingratiated itself with the rich and the powerful'.
It said there was no evidence of political interference from Beijing over the arrangements for Li.
It was also revealed that it was the university's decision to invite a top mainland official to attend the centennial celebration ceremony.
Li's arrival led to a lockdown and takeover of the campus by police, in which student protesters were confined in a stairwell. The panel said the force used by the police to push the students into the stairwell was unjustifiable because the protesters posed no danger. But police did not falsely imprison the students because evidence showed that they could have left the staircase if they wanted to.
According to one of the review panel's eight members, Johannes Chan Man-mun, dean of the HKU law faculty, the students did not appear to have been intimidated when they were confined.
A police spokesman said they used minimum force during the protest, and three students ignored their requests for identity documents. The trio also disregarded efforts by police to persuade them to leave the area, which was not open to public.
In a report released by the police a day earlier, the force said the blunder resulted from miscommunication.
However, solicitor Lester Huang, the head of the review panel, said police breached an agreement with HKU that no force should be used when handling protesters. Also, restriction zones had been expanded without good reason.
Samuel Li Shing-hong, one of the student protesters, said he would consult his lawyer before making any comments.
The report also described the protocol arrangements to seat the vice-premier in the middle of the front row during the ceremony as inappropriate. It was also 'most inappropriate' to arrange for former Hong Kong governor David Wilson to be seated in the second row.
Huang said it would have been more appropriate had Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and the university chancellor been flanked by Li and Wilson.
July 2011: HKU is notified that a top mainland official will visit the school. School discusses arrangements with police.
August 17: Police demand increased security.
August 18: Protesters are locked up and police clash with media during Li Keqiang's visit.
September 7: HKU forms a seven-member committee to carry out a four-month review of arrangements for the '818 incident'.
October 25: HKU vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee notifies the council that he will not renew his contract after it expires in August 2012.
October 27: HKU Council chairman Leong Che-hung insists he did not force Tsui to leave.
October 29: Leong says the new HKU chief should have 'political sense'.
November: Pan-democrats call for an independent investigation into Tsui's departure.
February 2, 2012: Police release a report citing 'room for improvement' in communications involving major events.