Hong Kong’s police chief remained defiant in the face of fresh criticism about the strong-arm tactics deployed by his officers against anti-government protesters, insisting that calls for an apology for alleged police violence are unwarranted.
If anyone needs to apologize, it is the “rioters”, Chris Tang Ping-keung said on Thursday, as he rejected accusations of police brutality and reiterated that the force had been the target of a smear campaign.
At a meeting with members of the Central and Western District Council, the police commissioner defended the conduct of his officers during the past seven months, saying they used appropriate means to protect law and order.
Grilled by pan-democrat district councilors, Tang firmly denied accusations that officers had mistreated protesters, and denounced “fake” online information that painted the force in bad light.
Tang, the first police chief to attend a district council meeting and take questions from council members since Hong Kong’s anti-government movement began in early June last year, also dismissed calls for him to step down.
Before the council started the meeting, chairwoman Cheng Lai-king, who belongs to the Democratic Party, asked police officers who came along with Tang, as well as reporters and those who were present as observers, to wear their identification passes.
Most of the police officers followed and wore their warrant cards, except for one officer who was then evicted from the meeting room.
Giving his remarks, Tang said a total of 7,019 people had been arrested for protest-related offenses since early June, and that prosecutions have been launched against 1,092 of them.
After those comments, a number of pro-democracy councilors, who control most of the local bodies now following the camp’s landslide win the Nov. 24 election, took turn to grill the police chief, raising questions that centered on allegations of police brutality in the past few months.
Cheng questioned Tang about some allegations, including the topic of some arrested protesters purportedly suffering sexual assaults at police stations, with Cheng asking him to disclose the magnitude of such cases.
In response, Tang said Cheng has been misled by “rumors and false information”. Blaming the police for cases involving those who fell from buildings or corpses found floating in the sea was tantamount to inciting public hatred against the police, he said.
Questioned about a case in which an 18-year-old woman filed a complaint that she was gang-raped by police officers at the Tsuen Wan Police Station in September last year and later became pregnant and had to undergo an abortion, Tang said the police is looking into whether the girl had misled police officers or provided a false statement.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Tang further dwelt on that case, saying the CTTV footage recovered from the police station was inconsistent with the woman’s claims.
When asked by some councilors to step down, Tang dismissed the demand, saying there is no reason for him to resign since he was in the right.
Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is also a member of the Central and Western District Council, accused Tang of conniving with and shielding criminal officers, pointing out that no officer has been arrested so far.
The police will investigate whoever breaks the law, Tang said, but added that the reason why no officer has been arrested is simply because there is insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
Tang left as councilors raised a motion moved by councilor Yip Kam-lung to condemn the police chief and demand his dismissal, and also call for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to fully look into police power-abuse and violence during the months-long protests.
Speaking to media outside the council, Tang said it was regrettable that councilors only wanted to vent their emotions. Meanwhile, he revealed that the police is looking into whether there are other appropriate weapons that can be used as an alternative to live ammunition.
In a Facebook post later on Thursday night, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor praised Tang, saying he had displayed an attitude that was neither arrogant nor subservient while appearing before the DC members.
Tang has set a good example for department chiefs who will attend district council meetings in the future, she said.
Meanwhile, she took a potshot at pro-democracy councilors, saying the members were attempting to use every means to falsely accuse Tang and insult him by moving a motion to condemn him.
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