Hong Kong police associations have slammed the head of a local university for publishing “unverified” allegations of mistreatment made by arrested students.

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Vice-Chancellor Rocky Tuan wrote a lengthy open letter last week saying that around 20 students had reported instances of unreasonable treatment by police following their arrests at protests. He urged for an independent investigation into the force because of public “mistrust” in existing complaint mechanisms.

The alleged ill-treatment included refusal of requests for timely communication with their lawyers and families, delay in medical treatment, physical assault, among other accusations.

Rocky Tuan
Rocky Tuan. Photo: CUHK.

But four police associations issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing “extreme regret” over Tuan’s comments. The groups were made up of the Superinterndents’ Association, the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association, the Overseas Inspectors’ Association, and the Junior Police Officers’ Association.

Mass protests, now in their 20th week, were triggered by a government-proposed extradition agreement with China. Though the bill has been withdrawn, the movement has evolved into wider calls for democracy, a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for arrested protesters, among other demands.

‘Unverified accusations’

The groups said Tuan’s letter did not provide substantive evidence to support allegations of mistreatment, nor did Tuan challenge the students’ claims. The groups also criticised Tuan for failing to mention the crimes allegedly committed by the arrestees.

“We are not educational institutions and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on your educational principals and direction, but we cannot ignore your unverified accusations because they are related to the police force’s professional conduct when enforcing the law,” they said.

“In fact, as law enforcers, we cannot agree with you allowing students to participate in illegals acts of violence and destruction, and many in society feel helpless and sad that CUHK has reduced itself to a hub of anti-China, Hong Kong independence forces.”

Photo: CUHK.

The groups said Tuan should teach students to bear the legal responsibilities of their mistakes. They also criticised Tuan’s request to handle the students’ grievances outside of existing complaint mechanisms, which include the Independent Police Complaints Council.

“We dare ask, do you understand the rule of law?” they said. “We can hardly understand why arrested CUHK students would be given special treatment outside of existing mechanism, unlike other Hong Kong residents. Is it a privilege afforded to CUHK students?”

The groups said Tuan was setting a “very bad precedent” by bringing political confrontation into schools.

“Please think carefully, Vice-Chancellor Tuan!” they said.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.