Police chief defends overtime allowance for officers

March 03, 2020 13:22
Chris Tang says a monthly overtime compensation of more than HK$10,000 to all his officers is very reasonable given the hard work they put in during the months-long social unrest last year. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong's police chief on Monday defended extra compensation for his officers by way of overtime allowance, saying the police personnel deserve the additional payout in view of the hard work they put in during the months-long social disturbances and protests last year.

Speaking to media after a visit to the Chun Yeung Estate quarantine center in Fo Tan, Chris Tang Ping-keung pointed out that police officers had put in additional hours that amounted to about 70 percent over their regular duty hours, and that some had even clocked in several tens of hours per shift.

Hence, granting a monthly overtime compensation of more than HK$10,000 to all officers is very reasonable, the police commissioner said.

The defense came after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget speech last week increased spending on the police force, including an overtime allowance, that is estimated at about HK$2.9 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in March, and which will surge to over HK$5.1 billion in 2020-21.

The extra budget for the police drew criticism from many people, including pro-democracy lawmakers, who argued that the law enforcement personnel do not deserve the extra pay given their poor conduct last year when they used excessive violence against anti-government protesters.

Talking about the controversial allowance, police chief Tang said "rioters" actions in Mong Kok last Saturday night, which required the police to fire tear gas and arrest more than 100 people, showed why the force needs to hire hundreds more officers, RTHK reported.

"We have to face the reality that there is a new normal. The new normal is that things cannot go back to one year ago. As you can see, petrol bombs are being thrown every day against police stations, against [coronavirus-related] clinics. And the potential local terrorism... this is a very significant threat,” the broadcaster quoted Tang as saying.

The police chief said he suspects some young people might have been incited by others "to achieve justice" though illegal means. Remarks made by some people who have legal background makes one wonder whether those people had connived in acts of violence, he said.

The police have to react because the rioters use violence, set fires, assault other people and throw petrol bombs, Tang said.

In other comments, the police chief revealed that a total of 1,639 complaints have been filed against officers since the start of the protests which were triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

According to Tang, 21 officers have been reprimanded over their behavior during the anti-government protests, including one who drove his motorcycle into a crowd of protesters in Kwai Fong, and two officers who displayed reporters’ identity cards to the media cameras.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said reprimanding but not investigating the officers is tantamount to conniving with them, which can only make officers’ abuse of power even worse.

Asked about the arrest of publishing magnate and Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying on Friday, Tang said he would not comment on individual cases but stressed that the police always enforce the law regardless of who, how rich or how influential the arrested person is.

Questioned by a reporter about his recent participation in a dinner party with celebrities from the entertainment industry, Tang said the dinner was full of positive energy and that the people who joined were supportive of the police, so he had no problems attending the event.

As per media reports, Tang told movie star Jackie Chan at the event that it was Chan’s films that taught him how to be a policeman. 

Tang dismissed criticism of the remarks he made at the dinner, saying he was merely resorting to humor to make a few points.

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TL/JC/RC