Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang was grilled by district councillors at a Central and Western District Council meeting on Tuesday over allegations of police brutality.
Democrats took control of the council after the District Council election last November, which saw a landslide loss for the pro-Beijing camp. Tang had attended its meeting to answer councillors’ questions.
District Councillor Sam Yip, who hosted a rally at the CITIC Tower outside the Legislative Council on June 12, said police officers had fired tear gas against peaceful protesters without notice and almost caused a stampede.
“Are you going to take responsibility for this incident?” Yip asked.
Tang said he did not agree with the allegations, saying that some protesters had thrown bricks at officers, prompting the use of tear gas.
He said it was inappropriate for him to respond to the question because the Independent Police Complaints Council was looking into the incident.
“But I have to clarify some important details. At the time, the organiser told people to enter the CITIC Tower, which caused chaos,” he said.
Yip also asked Tang if it was unlawful for officers to shine strong flashlights at people. Tang said it depended on the situation and that he could not give a general answer.
At the meeting, multiple district councillors referred to Tang as “PK,” short for his name “Ping-keung.” “PK” is also a Cantonese curse word.
District Councillor Camille Yam urged Tang to order officers not to call civilians “cockroaches,” asking: “Is it appropriate for officers to call a district councillor a ‘cockroach’?”.
Tang responded saying: “I believe no derogatory term should be used.”
District Councillor Napo Wong brought a piece of raw pork to the meeting and asked police not to frame residents for things they have not done. “Making raw pork” is Cantonese slang for setting someone up. He also asked Tang to install more security cameras inside police stations to “prevent residents from being beaten up inside.”
Tang denied Wong’s accusations and condemned his remarks as insulting and unacceptable.
District Councillor Cheung Kai-yin showed Tang several photos of masked police officers holding projectile launchers at a protest march on January 1. He asked Tang to confirm whether the men were indeed officers.
Tang replied, saying: “I am not able to immediately tell whether they were police.” He added that officers should display their warrant cards when possible.
Several district councillors asked Tang to resign but he refused. “I have been doing my job well,” he said. “Only those who are afraid of justice want me to resign.”
Tang left the meeting room after a motion to condemn him was proposed. The motion was later passed.
Tang told reporters that he had wanted to answer questions from district councillors but was unable to do properly. “Unfortunately, most district councillors were venting emotionally and not asking substantial questions,” he said.
He also said that police were investigating an accusation of gang rape by officers inside a police station as an attempt to “mislead police,” because the claim was inconsistent with video footage from the time of the alleged incident.
Over 7,000 arrests
During the meeting, chairperson Cheng Lai-king asked plainclothes police officers inside to display their identification documents or be ejected from the room. An officer was kicked out after refusing to show his warrant card.
Pro-police demonstrators, as well as pro-democracy groups, gathered outside Harbour Building where the meeting was being held. Cheng kicked out some members of pro-police groups from the meeting after they began to shout.
Tang said that since the start of the protests in June, 7,019 people had been arrested, 1,092 of whom had been prosecuted, including 547 charged with rioting. Thirty-eight people have been convicted, including 12 who received jail sentences.
The highest sentence – 14 months – was handed down to a person found to possess a petrol bomb. Two 15-year-olds were sent to a rehabilitation centre and required to pay HK$280,000 to the MTR Corporation for damaging Light Rail facilities.
Tang said 40 per cent or 2,847 of those arrested claimed to be students. He said protesters had attacked people with different views and acted “akin to the way triads silence opponents.” He added that 558 officers had been injured over the last seven months.