Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong has paid tribute to the police force and called on officers to be prepared for new challenges as he described them as “loyal guardians” of the city’s stability and national security.
Luo Huining, director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, praised the force for its fearless work in tackling the 2019 protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, suppressing chaos and restoring order.
“After a year of hammering in blood and fire, the Hong Kong Police Force has developed from an urban security police into a strong, reliable and trustworthy law enforcement force that maintains Hong Kong’s stability and national security,” he said in remarks reported in a statement by the liaison office.
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Luo dished out the praise during an unprecedented visit on Sunday to the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station to offer Lunar New Year greetings ahead of the holidays next week.
Accompanied by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and security minister John Lee Ka-chiu, Luo met more than 100 police officers to learn about their work. Among them were several who were injured while handling the protests.
Luo encouraged the officers to uphold their commitment and fulfil their mission, continuing to guard the country and protect Hong Kong as well as citizens’ safety, according to the statement.
He also urged officers to remember “the country will forever be their staunch backing no matter how big a storm”, underscoring Beijing’s support for the force.
“[Luo] also encouraged officers … to be well prepared to tackle new challenges and to be the loyal guardians who will safeguard Hong Kong’s stability and national security,” the statement said.
During the anti-government protests of 2019, police became embroiled in controversy when they had to tackle hardcore protesters who became violent.
Police supporters said the force had to take the brunt of the people’s anger towards the government as it went about upholding the law, while protesters and critics accused officers of overly harsh actions and demanded an inquiry into their conduct.
Lam rejected the calls for a probe but the visit by Luo and the praise he offered police caught the attention of commentators for being effusive and signalled the force’s enlarged role under the national security law that came into effect last June.
Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said when Luo suggested police had developed into a reliable law enforcement force for safeguarding stability and national security, he was reconfirming the new assigned function it had as an apparatus of the authorities in their governance.
He said this was not a groundbreaking new direction but a further display of the force’s additional role when its National Security Department was established in July last year.
Luo’s visit was also a further display of President Xi Jinping’s “holding firmly full governance over Hong Kong and Macau” he proposed in 2017.
Besides giving the force a boost in morale, Luo’s visit also served as a promise to the officers that they had Beijing’s blessing for the job done before, he said.
According to the liaison office statement, police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung thanked Luo for citing the country’s backing. He pledged police “would forever be the loyal force in safeguarding national security and the security of Hong Kong society”.
Luo took over as director of the liaison office a year ago. He also serves as Lam’s top adviser on the local Committee for Safeguarding National Security, on which the heads of the disciplined services also sit.
Luo was accompanied by liaison office deputy director Yang Jianping, and director general of the police liaison department Cheng Feng.
In a separate statement, the Hong Kong government said Lam also praised the police force during the meeting.
“Noting that police officers have done a large amount of work over the past year, ranging from curbing violence to fighting the epidemic, [Lam] said that their work deserves full recognition,” the statement said.
“In particular, following the implementation of the national security law on June 30, 2020, the police force has shouldered the vital and honourable responsibility of safeguarding national security.”
On the sanctions by the United States against a number of senior police officers, including Tang, Lam conveyed regards from Xi that he expressed during her work report last week.
This article Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong praises police as ‘loyal guardians’ of stability and national security first appeared on South China Morning Post