Thousands attended a protest in support of the police on Sunday following a court decision to jail retired superintendent Frankly Chu for striking a pedestrian during the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests.
Chu was convicted last month of assault occasioning bodily harm after striking Osman Cheng in Mong Kok in 204. He was sentenced last Wednesday to three months behind bars, but was immediately released on bail pending his appeal.
Demonstrators marched from the Central Government Complex in Admiralty to the police headquarters in Wan Chai to submit a petition. They demanded that judges be of Chinese nationality and the establishment of a judicial watchdog to monitor the sentences handed out by judges. The judge in the Chu case was Indian-born Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai.
In attendance was retired magistrate Symon Wong Yu-wing, who said he supported the police and supervision of the judiciary. “I feel that it’s very unfair to the police – for example, there’s a lot of cases where there’s a huge difference in the length of sentences between police officers and members of the public.”
The police said that 3,000 attended the protests at their peak. Organisers said 7,000 attended.
The Junior Police Officers’ Association has said that requirements of police officers were “outdated” in light of political controversies and changing social circumstances in recent years.
“Society has changed, but the pressure faced by the police force has only increased,” Joe Chan of the Junior Police Officers’ Association told reporters on Sunday. He questioned whether the laws, procedures and guidelines were sufficient to protect officers under changing circumstances.
The union said it has written to the heads of the Civil Service Bureau and the Security Bureau demanding an emergency meeting within seven days in order to discuss measures to prevent officers from being harmed and to solve the “morale crisis” within the force.
Chan said that the union has met with Police Commissioner Stephen Lo on Sunday, and Lo was “very supportive” of their suggestions.
Previously, the union wrote to its members following Chu’s ruling stating 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.
‘High pressure environment’
Lo told the media on Sunday that a working group had been established to review the guidelines, procedure and training for use of force by the police.
Responding publicly to the incident for the first time, Lo said: “The 79-day illegal Occupy protests were unprecedented in Hong Kong history. It is also the first time the police force has met with such difficult circumstances.”
“Under such a complicated and high-pressure environment, our colleagues were enforcing the law – and this [jailing] is the result. We really feel very saddened in our hearts. We are speaking out because we hope everyone will understand how we feel,” adding that they will fully support Chu and his family.
He also said that the police have received a referral from the Department of Justice over the matter of protesters shouting slurs at Magistrate Bina Chainrai outside court following the verdict, and is looking into the matter.
Lo earlier also said in a letter to the force following the court decision that he and the management were “deeply saddened” and urged officers to “stay united during the challenging times.”