Hong Kong police have reinstated an officer who drove his motorcycle into a crowd of masked protesters last month, according to the police chief.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang on Sunday confirmed that the officer had resumed active duty as the force continued to investigate the incident. On November 11, the officer was filmed veering his bike into fleeing protesters three times near a Kwai Fong shopping mall.
Tang said the decision was not a sign of “leniency” and that the officer was still under investigation despite his reinstatement. At the time of his suspension, police said the officer had driven into people to “try to separate his colleagues and rioters.”
Speaking on radio programmes on Sunday, Tang also rejected calls for an independent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) – one of the five core demands of protesters – to look into instances of alleged misconduct since the start of the pro-democracy movement in June.
“If the [commission of inquiry] was used as a tool to target the police and incite hatred against the force, that would be an injustice,” he said.
Asked about Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposed “review committee,” Tang said it was a good idea to look into the social causes of the movement. Lam’s proposed alternative has been criticised as a watered-down version of the CoI, with no legal provisions or guarantees of impartiality.
However, Tang said such a “review committee” should not look into law enforcement, stressing that any probe into policing should be left to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC). Tang said the IPCC had experience in dealing with the force’s operations, and he had met with its members a few times.
Separately, Tang also said that the police had re-hired about 1,000 officers who had retired within the past two years, in a bid to bolster the numbers of the embattled force. They are expected to start work within this month, he added.
Tang was promoted to the top job at the Hong Kong Police Force on November 19, during a controversial siege on Polytechnic University.
The city saw a lull in clashes during the District Council election last weekend, which came to an end on Saturday when police fired tear gas to clear protesters in Mong Kok. Tang said that officers had no choice but to fire three rounds of tear gas that night because “rioters” threw a Molotov cocktail at a police van.
He acknowledged that the crowd control agent would have affected the general public, but refused to disclose its chemical composition “for operational reasons.”
Tang also refused to apologise for police operations during the July 21 mob attacks in Yuen Long, or the storming of Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, but admitted that some decisions “could have been better” with the benefit of hindsight.
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