Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting has criticised Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang as failing to provide proof to support his claim that young arrested protesters had been exploited for political gains.

At the Panel on Security in the Legislative Council on Tuesday, the commissioner of police revealed the latest arrest figures related to large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations which began last June. As of April 15, 3,286 of the 8,001 arrested persons claimed to be students – 60 per cent of whom were tertiary students and 40 per cent studied in secondary schools.

Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang. File photo: inmediahk.net.

Tang said young people had been involved in “serious, violent” crimes recently. He cited two teenagers who were arrested and charged for murder, assault and rioting in connection with a street cleaner who died after being hit on the head with a brick on November 13 last year. The incident occurred during a clash between residents and protesters in Sheung Shui.

The head of the police force called the arrested teens “victims” who were “agitated” into committing crimes. He also accused some people of using misleading information to incite hatred towards the government and police.

“Some people in society incited young people to break the law for their own gains. They falsely made teenagers believe that as long as they think they are right, they could use violence unscrupulously and shirk all of their responsibilities to the government and police,” he said.

Tang added that parents, teachers and principals should not allow young people to become “sacrifices” while others enjoy political gains.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Tang’s remarks were challenged by pro-democracy legislator Lam, who asked the police chief to provide evidence to back his claims. Tang said the perpetrators had used “surreptitious ways” which were difficult to detect. He went on to allege – without directly naming – some lawmakers as among those who “condoned illegal acts” and “passed responsibility to young people.”

When further questioned by Lam, Tang said statements supporting his claims could be found online.

Lam criticised Tang as being irresponsible in making groundless claims at the legislature while urging the top cop to withdraw his comment.

“Earlier you said it was difficult to find [proof], later you said it could be seen online. Your statements are contradictory, you are not an honest witness,” Lam said.

Lam Cheuk-ting. File photo: LegCo Screenshot.

Tang was also asked to report on the handling of three senior police officers accused of breaking land and housing laws. Tang said the cases were under investigation by various government departments. He added the force would look into whether the officers concerned had breached internal guidelines or the Civil Service Code.

Responding to media reports that he had “turned a blind eye” to an unauthorised building structure on a flat he used to rent, Tang dismissed the allegation, saying he had checked with the real estate agent beforehand.

Tang admitted that in retrospect, when handling the incident, he “could have done better” and “should have moved away earlier.”

“If I commit illegal acts, I will not evade responsibility, but I did not [break the law],” he said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.