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Crime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong commissioner throws weight behind calls for law to make insulting police a crime

The stance is a reversal from comments he made last year and comes at a time when the city’s largest police union has called for more protections for officers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:43pm

Hong Kong’s police commissioner said he would support a law to make insulting officers on duty a crime on Tuesday, in what appeared to be a move to placate the city’s police union.

Stephen Lo Wai-chung said an increasing number of disputes in the city was a reason a law was needed – an apparent reversal from his stance a year ago.

“Over the past few years, our officers have been carrying out duties in a society that full of disputes. They caught in the middle in many circumstances. They were insulted in certain extents at work with their jobs sometimes disrupted,” Lo told reporters as he announced last year’s crime statistics, adding that the force had overcome “several big challenges” in recent years.

“Regarding this recommendation, we, as a force, will fully support it, as long as it is reasonable and legal and it would help our officers to better perform their duties.”

His words sharply differed with his hesitation on the proposal last year, when he said introducing a law to ban insulting acts specifically against policemen was “complicated” while such acts were already covered by existing regulations.

His comments on Tuesday came a day after an emergency meeting between the Junior Police Officers’ Association and the Security Bureau and the Civil Service Bureau.

The 20,000-member association – which represents two-thirds of the force – had called for a law that made insulting on duty officers a crime.

On Monday, about 10 members of the association held separate emergency meetings with Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong to discuss how to strengthen protections 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.

Lee said he would keep an open mind on the suggestion. He pledged to conduct legal research and study the possibilities of enhancing measures other than legislations.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong enjoyed its lowest level of crime in 46 years last year, Lo said, despite online love scams more than doubling with culprits conning nearly HK$108 million out of people.

A total of 56,017 crimes were reported in 2017 – a 7.6 per cent drop from 2016. That translates to 758 cases per 100,000 people in Hong Kong, which is the lowest since 1971.

The city saw a significant decrease in violent crime – with 9,086 cases reported in 2017 down 10.1 per cent from 10,103 in 2016.

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While cases involving deception – such as phone or online shopping scams – dropped 2.3 per cent to 7,091 cases, reported online romance scams surged to 235 – up from 114 in 2016. The total money lost increased by 13.6 per cent.

Romance scams involve criminals cultivate and maintain online relationships with people under false pretences, often over several months. Once they have gained their victim’s trust, they will come up with a bogus reason to ask them for money.

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“We indeed face difficulties and certain degree of obstacles when dealing these sorts of online deceptions. The masterminds are not in Hong Kong in most of the cases … All other parts of the crime are [conducted] in other jurisdictions,” Lo said.

Reported phone deception cases also increased by 13 per cent to 991, with money lost reaching HK$230 million – HK$8 million more than in 2016.

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Among the 618 victims, 75 per cent were 30 or younger while more than half of the victims were mainlanders or newcomers to Hong Kong.

Overall, the rate of crimes solved slightly increased by 0.9 per cent to 48.2 per cent in 2017, with 33,660 people arrested.

Cases involving indecent assault increased by 5.7 per cent to 1,077, while most of the crimes saw an decrease.

While home burglaries was a spotlight in 2016, the cases had dropped by 23 per cent in 2017 to 1,872 cases.

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Murder cases decreased by 14.3 per cent to 24 cases while robbery slumped by 37 per cent to 163 cases.

Marijuana seizures more than doubled as police confiscated 845 kilograms – a nearly 250 per cent increase from 2016.