Hong Kong police chief steps up call for law against insulting officers
Stephen Lo says he will not apologise for the actions of officers jailed over attacks on protesters, citing their upcoming appeals
Hong Kong’s police chief on Saturday stepped up calls to criminalise insults against his officers, saying the government should “actively consider” doing so.
Stephen Lo Wai-chung also said it was too early to decide if the force should apologise for officers convicted of assaults on pro-democracy protesters.
Lo made the remarks on Saturday, just four days after he first displayed support for the law to make insulting officers on duty a crime.
“We support the idea and hope the government will actively consider it,” Lo told a radio show on Saturday.
He said his officers encounter more challenges in carrying out duties these days than in years gone by, and it is understandable that they occasionally get emotional.
Lo said he would fully support a law protecting them from abuse, as long as it was reasonable, legal and would help officers to better perform their duties. The force is also reviewing its guidelines on how officers should handle insults from the public.
Lo said it would be too early to comment on whether the anti-insult laws would widen the divide between the force and many city residents. He said more study and public consultation were needed.
On Monday the 20,000-member Junior Police Officers’ Association – which represents two-thirds of the force – held separate meetings with Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong to discuss protection for frontline officers.
The talks were prompted by the jailing on January 3 of former superintendent Frankly Chu, sentenced to three months behind bars for hitting a bystander with a baton during 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy protests. Chu was released on bail pending appeal.
At the meetings the association had called for an anti-insult law.
Lee said he would keep an open mind on the question. He pledged to look into the legal issues and study the possibility of bringing in protection without resorting to legislation.
Before Chu’s conviction, seven officers were jailed in February last year for assaulting a protester who had earlier poured liquid on their colleagues at an Occupy protest.
All seven have since been released on bail pending appeal.
Asked by a caller on the radio show whether he would apologise for the convicted officers’ actions, Lo said: “The cases are pending appeal. It is too early for me to state now what I should do. I appeal to members of the public to be patient. Once the appeal is over, we will make a decision.”
That reticence stood in contrast to what Lo said when he took the top post in 2015. Back then, he told reporters he would not let any of his colleagues break the law, and that he would apologise for any wrongdoing by officers.
He added on Saturday that he had put great efforts into improving the relationship between the police and the public, and that he saw that relationship improving from the positive comments on the force’s official social media pages.