Hong Kong’s security minister and police chief have stopped short of apologising for five jailed officers who lost their final appeals after being found guilty of beating a pro-democracy protester during the 2014 Occupy movement, saying society would make its own judgment.
On Thursday, security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said the government respected the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling and said police would handle the convicted officers in accordance with existing guidelines.
Asked repeatedly if he would apologise for the conduct of the five, Lee only said: “I believe society will have a judgement on this incident.”
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung, who was standing next to Lee, quickly echoed those words.
“We will follow up on the five colleagues according to the Police Force Ordinance and Public Service Regulation. As the security minister has said, members of the public will judge,” Tang said.
The five officers – Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing, 52; Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 33; Detective Sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 46; and 35-year-old detective constables Chan Siu-tan and Kwan Ka-ho – made their last attempts to clear their names, arguing they had suffered grave injustices during proceedings that began five years ago. But on Tuesday, the top court turned down their request to lodge a final appeal.
The five officers, who have already been released from prison, were among a group of seven who stood trial in 2016 and 2017 after being charged with assaulting then Civic Party member Ken Tsang Kin-chiu in Admiralty, the main venue of the 79-day civil disobedience campaign for greater democracy in 2014.
Tsang testified that, after he was arrested and carried to an electricity substation near the government headquarters, officers kicked and punched him, and beat him with batons.
All seven were found guilty at the District Court and were jailed for two years in 2017. After an appeal, Constable Lau Hing-pui, 42, and Detective Constable Wong Wai-ho, 40, were acquitted last year.
The remaining five were sent back to jail, but their terms were reduced to between 15 and 18 months.
According to the Police Force Ordinance, officers stop receiving any pay or allowance on the day of conviction, unless the police chief grants a special approval.
The fate of an officer in the rank of inspector or above, would be decided by the city’s leader, who can order the person concerned to be dismissed without retirement benefits, compulsorily retired with full or reduced benefits, or without benefits. A more lenient punishment could be demotion.
The police chief decides the fate of lower-ranking officers.
When the group was convicted three years ago, then police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung said he felt heartache and sadness at seeing his peers involved in a criminal case, and having to bear such consequences when they were exercising their duty.
He asked the public to understand the tremendous pressure shouldered by the force’s men and women during the 2014 unrest.