Police Commissioner Stephen Lo has expressed sadness over the jailing of retired superintendent Frankly Chu, who was found guilty last month of hitting a pedestrian with a baton during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.

“The management and I are deeply saddened by the court decision,” Lo said in an letter sent to the force on Wednesday, urging officers to “stay united during the challenging times.”

Stephen Lo (left), Frankly Chu (right). Photo: GovHK/HKFP.

The remarks came after Chu was sentenced on Wednesday to three months behind bars for assaulting Osman Cheng in Mong Kok during the 2014 protests. The ex-officer was immediately released on bail pending his appeal.

Following Chu’s conviction, the Junior Police Officers’ Association said in a letter to its members that frontline officers were “confused” about when they can use force legally. In another letter, the union promised to convey its members’ concerns to the force management.

On Wednesday, Lo said the management “fully understands” their concerns and has set up a working group to collect feedback from officers and review internal guidelines on the matter.

He added that even though Chu is retired, the force has been in touch with him and his family over welfare issues. He said the force will continue to help them.

Attacks on magistrates

While the pro-democracy camp had been demanding Chu be held accountable for his actions, Chu has received support from the pro-establishment camp.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker and ex-security chief Regina Ip expressed sympathy towards Chu, saying that “even one day in prison is too long.” She said the force should enhance training and help frontline officers understand what constitutes the legal use of force.

“Superintendent Chu is not guilty for enforcing the law”; “Hong Kong judiciary is unfair.” Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Meanwhile, lawyer and lawmaker Junius Ho criticised Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai of Chu’s case without naming her: “The sentencing criteria of magistrates are variable and bizarre – they gave a heavy three-month jail term to an officer who made a small mistake, while handing community service orders to troublemakers who barged into the legislature. Are they insane?”

Basic Law Committee member Lau Nai-keung wrote in pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao on Thursday that most magistrates in Hong Kong are “young and not very experienced,” leading to “varying” qualities of court judgments.

“Sometimes, these magistrates even forget their role and become the defence lawyer of rioters, finding excuses for them to get away with their actions,” he said.

See also: Hong Kong lawyers condemn personal attacks against judges, urge gov’t to defend judiciary

Others have resorted to personal attacks and racial slurs against Magistrate Chainrai. The Equal Opportunities Commission, the Progressive Lawyers Group and top lawyers have condemned the racist remarks.

The Department of Justice told HKFP earlier that it had referred conduct that may constitute contempt of court to law enforcement agencies.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.