Twelve months after the brutal assault on Ken Tsang, the Leung Chun-ying administration is finally preparing to lay charges against the police officers who allegedly beat up the Civic Party member in an Occupy-related incident.
The Department of Justice on Tuesday spread word to pro-government newspapers that it has completed a report on the case and that the seven policemen could face charges as early as this week.
Given the record of the Leung government, we can’t help but wonder about the timing of the move and whether political considerations are behind the belated decision.
Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen has dismissed suggestions that political factors were at play, but his comments have failed to convince the skeptics.
The truth is that Yuen’s boss, chief executive Leung, is facing pressure from Beijing to improve the image of his government ahead of key elections – Hong Kong is heading for District Council elections next month and Legislative Council polls in September 2016.
The administration has been accused of ineptitude in handling issues such as the lead-in-water crisis and the more recent controversy related to a Hong Kong University academic appointment.
Leung’s personal approval rating, meanwhile, also remains dismal.
According to the latest poll from the Public Opinion Program of HKU, Leung’s support rating is at 39.8, still more than 5 points below the warning line of 45. His approval rate stands at 24 percent and the disapproval rate at 62 percent, yielding net popularity of negative 38 percentage points.
While Leung still believes that he has done nothing wrong, most locals have poor opinion of him.
The main reason for that is because Leung is perceived to be approaching all issues with a hidden political agenda, rather than take decisions that are purely in Hong Kong’s long-term interest.
Beijing now fears that low popularity of the chief executive might affect the prospects of pro-establishment candidates in the upcoming elections.
The government’s slow response to the lead-water crisis in recent months has led to more public support for the pro-democracy camp, given that the water contamination problem at public housing estates was first brought to light by democrat lawmaker Helena Wong.
What the government needs to do at the moment, a month before the District Council election, is to shift the public’s attention to other issues.
And what better way than to bring the spotlight again on the Tsang case, which has aroused a lot of passions in society?
Hongkongers haven’t forgotten the shameful incident of Oct. 15, 2014, when police officers beat up an unarmed Tsang in a dark corner near the Occupy protest site in Admiralty district.
Video footage of the police brutality went viral after it was first aired by TVB, sparking widespread revulsion.
Meanwhile, as reports surfaced that authorities were prevaricating in prosecuting the errant officers, and that the policemen were being paid full salaries despite being under suspension, the public’s doubts only began to grow.
Following the Occupy crackdown, Leung has been accused of using the police as a tool to suppress those who stand up against the government.
In the process, he has caused damage to the reputation of the police, as the force is now no longer seen as impartial.
Given all the negative reactions from the public, Leung now sees a chance to redeem himself by making progress on the case related to Ken Tsang.
By laying charges against the police officers, the government can show that it will uphold the law even in a politically sensitive case.
Leung would also be hoping that the judicial proceedings can ease the pressure on him personally and shore up his approval ratings.
Well, there is no harm in trying!
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