Yes to charges against cops but govt hits back with a low blow

October 16, 2015 16:13
Ken Tsang (left photo) got some vindication and a low blow  but DOJ chief Rimsky Yuen (right) says the decision to charge him as well was 'beneficial and fair' to all parties. Photos: HKEJ, NowTV

It took a year of hemming and hawing by the government, an inordinate amount of anxiety over our justice system and loss of trust in the guardians of public order and safety to answer a question with a "yes" or a "no."

We know it's "yes" on the question of whether seven policemen accused of beating a pro-democracy activist should be tried.

But did the government have to come back with a low blow?

Ken Tsang got some vindication in the government's decision to charge his alleged attackers -- and an incomprehensible insult in return.

On the same day the officers were brought to court, Tsang was held for resisting arrest and assaulting a policeman.

There was no reason to bring them together before a judge on the same day given that the charges are unrelated.

But Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen, who is also the chief prosecutor, said the decision was "beneficial and fair to all parties".

We are sure he meant it in the best possible light but it did come across as suggesting the charges would not be fair to the policemen if the book was not thrown at Tsang as well.

The idea that the decision could have been influenced by a desire to show fairness to the officers made many Hong Kong people suspicious.   

Who can blame them for ascribing political motive to it? 

So here we are again talking politics about something that already should have been a matter for our courts.

There's a sense the government is keen to come out of this episode looking like a winner.

Which is why it appears to be treating this whole saga as a public relations exercise.

For instance, what was former police commissioner Andy Tsang doing outside police headquarters when the accused were brought in?

And why the unusual effort to shield them from the media after their identities and personal details had been released to the public?

Leung Chun-ying has been under pressure from critics and his own allies to get on with the case for different reasons -- the former to see that justice is served and the latter to shore up the government's reputation.

In all of this, Beijing is a disembodied voice telling Leung to clean up his act.

For now, the government is treating the charges separately but it's conceivable prosecutors will consolidate them.

Some legal experts have challenged the government over its handling of charges against pro-democracy protesters.

They say that if the government deems the protesters to have participated in an illegal assembly, it should prosecute all of them, not some.   

It's not clear how this will influence any decision to combine the charges against Tsang and the policemen into a single writ.

What is certain is that Tsang's testimony will affect the case of the accused officers and vice versa.

That in turn would play into the government's desire to punish another protester and put this distraction over its police force behind it for good.

But we will continue to be skeptical about Yuen's statement that bringing Tsang and the officers together before a judge on the same day was not a political decision.

Because we can't stop thinking why an incident with such overwhelming evidence -- the beating was caught by a news camera and  broadcast -- had become a political side show before it became a court case.

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EJ Insight writer