Occupy Central

The police must stay above the political fray

Rejecting donations to a fund for arrested officers because of questions over the donors was the right move to safeguard the force’s reputation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 5:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 5:11am

The last thing Hong Kong needs right now is another blow to police morale arising from the Occupy protest. It cannot help the city move on from that painful, polarising experience. Only by doing so can we heal the wounds of division and distrust. As the wedge between the government and protesters, police became the target of attack.

Two and a half years later, the sentiments of the yellow and blue ribbon camps are still not far from the surface. Regrettably, the conviction and jailing of seven police officers for beating Occupy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiuhave become another flashpoint for them.

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For those who support the police, the outpouring of sympathy for the families of the seven is understandable. The setting up of a fund to support them may seem unremarkable. But even that can backfire.

The founder of the fund, Hong Kong NPC delegate and former president of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, Maria Tam Wai-chu, ordered the return of donations from three show business sources because of doubts about their backgrounds. Senior police officers urged rejection of questionable donations to safeguard the force’s image. Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Industry Association and the Chamber of Films say the donors’ motives have been distorted and smeared.

The fund has raised more than HK$20 million, which is a measure of public support. That said, there is the risk of a negative perception. Imagine the reaction if it were Occupy activists who had been jailed for criminal offences and the yellow ribbon camp was raising funds from the public and business and community organisations for their families. After all, the police have been convicted, pending an appeal. Sympathy may be misunderstood as forgiveness for convicts before their appeal is heard and may send the wrong message. The show of support suggests politics is still at play with the potential to damage perception of the force.

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Like the judiciary, the police must not be seen to be influenced by politics. The fund did the right thing to reject money while there were doubts about donors’ background. It shows it is mindful of the sensitivity involved and is trying its best to defend the force’s image.