Hong Kong police operations chief plays down furore over minister’s remarks that officers ‘are not always the good guys’

Chris Tang calls for mutual understanding and vows force will serve public ‘wholeheartedly’ as he accepts development secretary’s explanation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 4:39pm

A senior member of Hong Kong’s police force sought to play down the recent furore over a minister who said “not all police officers are the good guys”, as he gave reassurance on Saturday that officers’ morale remained high, citing good rapport with the public.

Chris Tang Ping-keung, police director of operations, said while he understood the feelings of frontline colleagues concerning comments made last week by Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun, outsiders might see the matter differently.

Speaking on a radio programme, Tang said: “We understand the concern and feelings of our colleagues. In fact, the minister has already explained himself and reiterated his appreciation and support for police.

“We will continue to work wholeheartedly for the Hong Kong people.”

The minister has already explained himself and reiterated his appreciation and support for police
Chris Tang, police operations chief

Wong, a former deputy security chief, was holding a sharing session on social issues with young audience members at the Hong Kong Book Fair when he quoted a famous Japanese author Keigo Higashino: “Criminals are not necessarily all bad guys – there are many objective factors behind a crime or reasons to be sympathetic. Likewise, not each and every cop is a good guy.”

The remark ruffled feathers at the Junior Police Officers’ Association, which represents two-thirds of the 30,000-strong force in Hong Kong. In a letter to the development minister, group chairman Lam Chi-wai said Wong’s comment “deeply hurt officers’ confidence”.

Wong responded saying he could have used a better choice of words and did not intend to offend or target police, but stopped short of an apology.

Separately, Li Chi-hang, police director of crime and security, also warned the public on radio of latest scam tactics and encouraged people to call the anti-scam hotline if they had been targeted. His comments came amid a surge in scams related to online romance or employment and investment opportunities.

“The popularity of social media has increased the chances for scammers to approach victims ... One should be very careful when suddenly asked to give money,” he said, adding that it was easy nowadays for internet users to befriend complete strangers online.

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According to police figures, cases of online romance scams alone totalled more than 270 in the first half of the year, resulting in HK$137 million (US$17.5 million) in losses – almost a 250 per cent increase compared with numbers in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, in the first half of 2018, the number of employment scams more than tripled from the same period last year, with almost half of them involving loan-related ruses in which con artists borrowed money from banks using personal information obtained from jobseekers.

“Jobseekers should check the background of companies and recruiters,” Li said. “If you are offered a surprisingly high salary, you should be careful.”

According to Li, the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, set up last July, had received more than 20,000 inquires for help and thwarted 288 cases that could have led to more than HK$500 million in losses.

Overall, Hong Kong’s crime rate is at its lowest since 1977, with 26,550 cases reported in the first half of the year.

Li also addressed an increase in the amount of seized drugs and cases of weapons possession, saying many operations were based on intelligence gathering.