Hong Kong security minister to follow up and ‘keep an open mind’ on review of police work guidelines
Police union holds discussions with officials over use of force and laws protecting officers on duty in the wake of Frankly Chu case
Hong Kong’s security minister acknowledged the difficulties faced by frontline officers on duty and promised to follow up on their concerns over the use of force after a meeting with police union members on Monday.
Junior Police Officers’ Association chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong said however that his group was disappointed with the response of Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong in another discussion. He said Law failed to make any promise to address their concerns.
About 10 members of the association, which represents two-thirds of officers in the force, held separate emergency meetings with Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Law to discuss how to strengthen protection for frontline law enforcers.
The talks were prompted by the jailing of former superintendent Frankly Chu, who was sentenced to three months behind bars for hitting a bystander with a baton during the 2014 Occupy protests. Chu was released on bail pending his appeal after the sentence on January 3.
The ruling caused an uproar and resentment among police ranks, according to the association.
Chan said that during the meeting with Lee, which lasted for about 45 minutes, members expressed the difficulties encountered while carrying out their duties, concerns over working guidelines, as well as the issue of protective gear for officers.
Lee was quoted as saying he would proactively follow up on the points raised.
A Security Bureau spokesman said it supported police in reviewing the issue over use of force, and that Lee would keep an open mind on enacting legislation to prohibit acts of insulting police officers. Legal research would also be conducted to study the possibility of enhancing other measures.
The association said it was let down in the other 90-minute meeting with the civil service chief on several issues including how to better protect officers from violence.
Chan said: “We talked about occupational safety and health, and voiced our appeals. But we are disappointed by the conservativeness of [Law’s] bureau and he did not make promises about [looking into] our requests.”
Chan said his group had ruled out the possibility of a work-to-rule action. They would also not consider public protests.
On January 7, Chan issued a letter to all association members, saying that the Frankly Chu case highlighted the inadequate protection of police on duty and that certain requirements for officers had become outdated.
He appealed for amendments to the law and guidelines, and also warned of a “morale crisis” brewing in its ranks, prompting the force’s top brass to swing into full damage control mode.
He also said some officers were disgruntled with management and had suggested launching a work-to-rule protest. On that day, the association met police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung to express its concerns.
Days before that meeting, Lo said a working group had been set up to review “guidelines, procedures, and training” on officers’ on-duty use of force, and that the group would come up with results “as soon as possible”.
On Wednesday last week, Lee said in a reply to a lawmaker’s inquiries that police had set up a steering committee led by a senior assistant commissioner in October. The working group mentioned earlier by Lo is under this committee.
A spokesman from the Civil Service Bureau said Law would continue to explore plans to improve different issues mentioned by the union with police department and other concerned bureaus.