Beijing visit on the cards for police

POLICE inspectors are waiting on official approval to make their first familiarisation trip to China.

The Local Inspectors Association (LIA) has received an invitation from the Chinese Procuratorate Institute to visit Beijing next month.

Chief Superintendent (Staff Relations) Angus Stevenson-Hamilton said they had referred the issue to the Government for consideration because it concerned policy.

''This is the first time a police association has received a written invitation from China. We need to consider the matter carefully before making a decision,'' he said.

The Government's reply concerning the trip would probably be made to the LIA this week so they would have sufficient time to prepare for the trip, he added.

It is known that the LIA executive committee has scheduled the trip for December 14 to 17.

Mr Stevenson-Hamilton said the operational relationship between the police force and the China Public Security Bureau was already very good. So he expected the trip by the LIA would be on a private basis if approved.

He conceded that because of the nature of their job, there had been no such contact between their staff and their counterparts other than on operational matters.

This is despite the fact that other civil servant unions have had exchanges with their counterparts in China since 1985.

''I suppose we [the police] are a bit sensitive, but we've got the best relationship with China,'' Mr Stevenson-Hamilton said.

However, he expected that contact would be increasing in the next few years as the 1997 change of sovereignty approaches.

''Policemen have a unique contribution towards the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. The words and deeds of police officers and police associations will be the focus of public attention,'' the LIA executive committee said in a newsletter to members.

''We have to handle every issue so that we could improve the benefits and conditions of service for our members without upsetting or causing suspicion in any of the parties concerned.'' A former LIA chairman, Li Shu-fung, said they were disappointed when their trip to China, after a verbal invitation, was opposed by officials in 1985.

''Most policemen intend to serve beyond 1997 and learning more about China is a must for them to have the confidence to stay with the force,'' Mr Li said.

''On the one hand, the Hong Kong Government encourages its staff to stay to serve the future Hong Kong government . . . But it prevents us from making friendly visits to China.

''If the police cannot get first hand information about China, they will have fears towards it. I think the British administration intentionally maintains a distorted picture on China in our minds so as to keep their control over us in the remaining years.''