The police force intends to ignore union protests and proceed with a plan to reduce the salary of suspended officers because the existing practice of keeping them on full pay is wrong, the police chief said yesterday. Commissioner Tsang Yam-pui said the force would ensure natural justice by introducing an appeal system for suspended officers who thought a pay cut would bring unreasonable financial difficulty. Addressing the Legco Public Accounts Committee, Mr Tsang said the force leadership favoured the move, but would listen to legislators' advice before making a final decision. His predecessor, Eddie Hui Ki-on, before retiring last month, promised to reduce pay for officers suspended for investigation. His promise followed an Audit Commission report that the Government could have saved $14.7 million if police were treated the same as other suspended civil servants, whose pay is halved during any criminal investigation. The force has long resisted attempts to bring it into line with other civil servants, saying pay cuts would damage morale and be unjust. Under the Police Force Ordinance, the commissioner may decide to cut the pay of officers below the rank of superintendent by up to half when they are under interdiction. Higher-ranking officers are referred to the Civil Service Bureau for a decision. So far, nearly all suspended officers have received full pay. Mr Tsang admitted this practice was problematic. He said his predecessors had not suitably used their discretionary powers. In the face of strong resistance from rank-and-file officers, Mr Tsang last month came out in favour of change, after taking legal advice. He said the force would introduce an appeal system for officers under suspension. Special welfare officers would be assigned to handle their cases and Mr Tsang would rule personally on how much officers were to be paid on a case-by-case basis. 'I believe the level of pay should not always be 50 or 70 per cent. Under some special circumstances - and I say special circumstances - it could even reach 100 per cent,' he said. Police unions joined forces to oppose Mr Tsang's proposal, saying cutting officers' pay before they were convicted of wrongdoing contradicted the principle of natural justice. 'The officer concerned is not convicted with any crime. Everyone knows presumed innocent is the basic principle of the laws of Hong Kong,' said Liu Kit-ming, chairman of the Local Inspectors' Association and spokesman for the Police Force Council Staff Associations. The committee is expected to publish a report by the middle of this month.