China Power

33,000 Hong Kong Police Gather to Support Convicted Officers

Current and former police gather to denounce the conviction of fellow officers for beating an unarmed protester.

33,000 Hong Kong Police Gather to Support Convicted Officers

Supporters of police officers stand outside a court where seven police officers, charged in connection with the beating of a protester during Occupy Central pro-democracy demonstrations, arrive at a court in Hong Kong, China (February 14, 2017).

Credit: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

In response to the recent sentencing of seven Hong Kong Police officers for the 2014 assault of a defenseless protester, 33,000 current and former police officers gathered at a private demonstration in a show of support for the convicted, as well to condemn the judicial ruling.

It was the single largest gathering of police in Hong Kong since 1977, when the government set up the Independent Commission Against Corruption specifically to curb the police corruption of the time.

The demonstration was termed “private” and held at Police Union clubhouse grounds, and excluded any media. It is believed this was arranged so that the attendees did not break any rules for police conduct.

Under chapter 6, paragraph 34 of the Police General Orders: “A police officer shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his/her duties, or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere. In particular, a police officer shall not participate in political activities.”

However, police unions called for laws that prohibited the public from insulting the police. In attendance to show her support was pro-Beijing chief executive hopeful Regina Ip, who backed the idea.

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“It would be best to prevent the public from insulting police officers,” Ip told reporters. “Police are upset that people swear at them. I hope people will stop. Our public officers deserve respect and dignity.”

While the gathering proper excluded media, it was held at an outdoor field that serves as recreational grounds for the police union, located next to public grounds. With the public land separated from the protest site by a mere wire fence, reporters were able to observe the event. One station sergeant from Hong Kong’s elite Special Tactical Squad was filmed on stage declaring on a microphone that police were being victimized like Jews of the Holocaust.

“It’s like we’re now in the Second World War. We are Jews facing the persecution of the Nazis, aren’t we?” he said. The crowd responded with a loud “yes.”

The Israeli consulate responded in a statement the following day. “Without relating to the trial of the seven police officers, the alleged statement at the rally that made a reference to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany is inappropriate and regretful,” said the statement.

The German Consulate in Hong Kong followed with a Facebook post that said: “The Jewish population in Germany was persecuted by the State and all its organs during the Nazi dictatorship and millions lost their lives. Therefore the comparison between the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and police officers convicted for an abuse of power is utterly inappropriate.”

The following day they added: “We don’t wish to comment further on reports in the media. We would like to reiterate that we urge everyone to study the history of the Holocaust before making any reference to it.”

The situation is becoming further politicized with a pro-establishment website HKG Pao, founded by Robert Chow Yung, the man behind the anti-Occupy Central campaign, making frequent and repeated comments on the consulate’s statements.

But the Hong Kong Police have distanced themselves from the station officer’s statement. The South China Morning Post reports that police chiefs have arranged face to face meetings with the respective consulates to clarify the force’s position.

A spokesperson for the police told local media that individual officer’s comments do not represent the position of the Hong Kong police force, and that they do not agree with the relevant “inappropriate” comments.