Hong Kong police chief tangles with opposition councillors for second time in week over force’s handling of protests

Sum Lok-kei

Hong Kong’s police chief has crossed swords with district councillors from the opposition camp over the force’s handling of the ongoing anti-government protests for the second time in a week, the latest as he attended a meeting in Tsuen Wan on Wednesday afternoon.

Pro-democracy councillors challenged Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung over his training and the alleged excessive use of force by his officers handling the social unrest during the 2½-hour meeting, which was frequently interrupted by his supporters in the public gallery.

Last week, Tang was asked at a Central and Western District Council meeting if he would apologise to the public for alleged police violence. But Tang hit back and said it was the “rioters” who should be apologising to society.

On Wednesday, Lester Shum, newly elected to Tsuen Wan District Council in citywide polls in November, highlighted Tang’s attendance at mainland Chinese institutions, including the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai and the Chinese People’s Public Security University in Beijing.

Police supporters were in the public gallery to back Chris Tang. Photo: Nora Tam

“For the majority of the time you were trained under Chinese law … and completely accepted Beijing’s way of dealing with Hongkongers,” Shum said.

Tang refuted Shum’s claims, saying he had only spent a matter of weeks at the mainland academies.

“I spent a year at Britain’s Royal College of Defence Studies and was trained for four months by the Federal Bureau of Investigation [in the United States],” Tang said. “Should people question my ties with these countries?”

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Shum also claimed Tang had close ties with rural powers during his time as district commander of Yuen Long – the scene of an attack by white-clad men against protesters and commuters on July 21 that resulted in the hospitalisation of at least 45 people.

“Maybe that explains why no police officer has been [prosecuted] for the July 21 incident, and only seven people have been charged,” Shum said.

Tang said he would never side with triads. The police chief, who was Yuen Long commander from 2012 to 2013, said he had only maintained a normal relationship with rural leader Tsang Shu-wo.

“I believe I am closer to [pan-democrat district councillor] Roy Kwong Chun-yu,” Tang said.

Police have been criticised for taking 39 minutes to respond to the attack. However, the force has countered that manpower was stretched by another protest on Hong Kong Island that evening.

Other councillors displayed photos of bloodied protesters and accused officers of using excessive force in arresting them.

Chris Tang was also grilled about a knife attack in Tsuen Wan last year. Photo: Nora Tam

In his opening remarks, Tang said 7,019 people had been arrested in relation to the protests, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. He said 1,092 had been charged, and of the cases that went to court, 38 were convicted, leading to the jailing of 12 people.

Some councillors also grilled Tang about a knife attack in Tsuen Wan on August 5, which happened after a white-clad group clashed with protesters.

Tang said police were still investigating the case, but he refused to give further details.

“No arrest has been made,” Tang said.

He left the meeting before councillors tabled a non-binding motion urging the government to dismiss the force. The motion was backed by 17 pan-democrats on the 21-member council.

Outside the meeting, Tang said he would report the police’s review of some complaints against officers to a Legislative Council panel meeting on February 4.

Before the meeting, 100 police supporters rallied outside the building.

“Save the children, support police,” they chanted.

The meeting was also interrupted more than a dozen times by police supporters in the public gallery.

Council chairman Chan Yuen-sum ejected about 10 people but others continued to shout from their seats.

Speaking after the meeting, pro-democracy councillors described Tang’s appearance as a public relations stunt and said he did not address their questions. “The police chief did not dare listen to our motion … we think he fled the meeting,” councillor Lau Chi-hung said.

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