Hong Kong police have turned up the heat on opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, blaming her for making “wild accusations” against the force based on “fake news” during an interview with an overseas media outlet.
In a strongly worded letter Monday, Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen of the police public relations branch expressed “utmost disappointment” with Mo and called on her to join with the force to stop violence and restore peace.
Mo argued she had only cited what had been reported in the news.
At the centre of the row was a television interview Mo gave to the British media outlet Sky News on the night of January 1 about the New Year’s Day protests in Hong Kong that ended in chaos. Several local newspapers cited the interview to report Mo’s claim that police had sent undercover officers to vandalise shops on that day.
In the letter, Kwok said: “Without any factual basis, you outrageously and irresponsibly claimed that the Hong Kong Police Force had sent two undercover officers to vandalise shops in Wan Chai, with the intention to use the incident to halt the [New Year’s Day] public protests.
“You also blamed the police’s use of force as excessive, alleging that police had rounded up people, terrorising Hong Kong.
“We strongly refute these wild accusations ... Such accusations were utterly false and founded on fake news.”
“It is therefore of utmost disappointment that you chose to report this piece of fake news on a live broadcast.”
In a Facebook video, Mo, who had also taken part in a march on January 1, responded: “More than two Hong Kong news outlets reported that some black-clad people had vandalised shops. Some witnesses said they ran towards officers and shouted they were [police]. It was widely reported.”
She added: “Now, police say my claims are baseless. They are certainly not [baseless].”
Hours after news reports emerged on January 1 quoting “witnesses” that undercover officers had vandalised shops, police issued statements to deny the allegations.
The organiser of the New Year’s Day march, the Civil Human Rights Front, claimed more than 1.03 million people turned up. But police estimated around 47,000 people had left the starting point of the march at Victoria Park, while another 13,000 were still inside the park awaiting as the force halted the march early amid vandalism and violence.
Also on Monday, the customs department rejected online rumours that police arrested one of its employees and seized his firearms. The department expressed regret over the “intentional spread of the confusing and unfounded rumours”.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: more than 6,000 officers to handle new year events as police chief vows hardline action against gatherings and lawbreakers
- Hong Kong protests: exploring the mechanism of police overtime compensation and the controversies behind it
- Hong Kong protests: lawmakers and leaders from 18 countries urge Carrie Lam to set up independent panel to probe police conduct