Chief Executive Carrie Lam confirmed on Tuesday that the Hong Kong government is considering a law against insulting police and other public officers, but said it has no firm plans as yet.

Any legislation would need a “delicate” balance between protecting freedom of speech and protecting public officers, she said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her weekly press briefing on Tuesday. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Lam made the comments in her weekly press briefing before her Executive Council meeting. She said the legislation is not a government priority during the current term of the Legislative Council (LegCo).

“First of all, we are not in a so-called very mature stage of considering legislation in that respect, but it has been the aspiration of many of my frontline officers,” said Lam.

“It’s not just police officers, but many public officers in the frontline in recent years, they have been intimidated, threatened, and insulted in carrying out their duties. And this is no good for a civic society, so there have been suggestions in the Legislative Council that the government should seriously look into enacting a piece of legislation to prohibit or to control that sort of behaviour,” she said.

“But one day, if we were to legislate, I think we would be very careful in striking the needed balance,” Lam added. “Yes, the Basic Law protects and upholds the rights of individuals including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. But… these rights and freedoms are not without limitations.”

“But as many court cases have made it very clear, these rights and freedoms are not without limitations, so when they undermine another person’s rights, then of course something needs to be done. So there has to be a very delicate and very serious balancing act to be done if one were to consider such a piece of legislation.”

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The proposal for legislation to outlaw insults against public officers was first revealed by Police Commissioner Chris Tang earlier this month in a video conference with police officers. Tang said the legislation would cover all public servants and not only police officers.

At a Legco meeting last week Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said the matter was being studied by the Security Bureau, but the government had no firm plans as yet.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.