My Take

In Hong Kong, the police are not our enemies

Despite seven officers being convicted of assault during the chaotic Occupy protests, it should not break the trust between the public and Asia’s finest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 1:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 1:30am

No civilised society can tolerate police brutality. But the beating of a blatantly provocative protester by seven officers must be understood given the extraordinary circumstances of the Occupy protests and the unprecedented pressure they put on the force two years ago.

Now that the seven officers have been convicted, justice has been served. Their trial has been as polarising as the political protests that led to the beating. It’s time to bury the hatchet. The so-called blue-ribbon movement has been blindly supportive of the police and the seven officers while their yellow-ribbon counterparts have been unfairly demonising them.

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We need to stop pointing fingers; the police are not the enemy. We cannot tolerate any more excuses for hooligans like those who perpetrated the Lunar New Year riot last year by deliberately attacking police officers and wreaking havoc.

The police have been the greatest causality of the Occupy civil unrest in 2014. A highly professional force long respected by the public, its image and reputation have been damaged by the sustained and at times violent protests. The beating of Ken Tsang Kin-chiu by the seven officers has been a black mark that will take a long time to erase. But that should not cloud the exemplary behaviour of many officers who were thrown to the barricades and had to endure verbal abuse and physical confrontation from provocateurs for long periods of time.

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Convicting the officers on the lesser charge of assault occasioning bodily harm – rather than the more serious one of causing grievous bodily harm – was a judicious decision. Certainly Tsang did not appear to have suffered any grievous harm when he was able to call a press conference to show reporters his injuries on the same night of the attack. A former Civic Party member, he himself was jailed for five weeks last May by another court for assaulting and resisting police. He was, however, granted bail, pending an appeal.

The punishment of the officers extends beyond their convictions and sentences. They are likely to lose their jobs and pensions. While they no doubt deserve it, it is a tragedy for their families, who are likely to face hardships.

We have a highly trained professional force. It’s time to rebuild trust between the police and the public.