A Hong Kong police union on Sunday demanded an emergency meeting with the city’s civil service and security chiefs to discuss how to strengthen protection for frontline law enforcers in an increasingly polarised society.
The Junior Police Officers’ Association also warned of a “morale crisis” brewing in its ranks with the recent sentencing of retired superintendent Frankly Chu.
It said some members had even suggested radical action ranging from protests to a work-to-rule movement. The association said it ruled out advocating the latter, which is a form of industrial action where workers follow rules and hours exactly, sacrificing output and efficiency.
“The incident lays bare the huge changes that have been imparted on Hong Kong society amid the political disputes of recent years,” association chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong wrote in a letter to members.
The union represents 20,000 junior members of the 30,000-strong police force.
Chan added: “[It] highlights the inadequate protection of police officers on duty and how certain requirements of police officers [on use of force] have become outdated.
“The association will write to the Secretary for the Civil Service and the Secretary for Security to request within seven days, an emergency meeting over the protection of police officers from injury while carrying out enforcement duties … and address the crisis in morale.”
Chan later said the association would not advocate a work-to-rule action at this point in time.
Chu, 58, was convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm and jailed for three months last week for hitting bystander Osman Cheng Chung-hang with a baton. At the time, Cheng was passing by a protest area in Mong Kok during the 2014 Occupy movement.
Chu has been released on bail pending an appeal.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since the sentencing, police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung said a working group had been set up to review “guidelines, procedures, and training” on officers’ on-duty use of force. He did not reveal the group’s composition or elaborate on a time frame for the review.
Lo said the force appreciated the concern by Chu’s fellow frontline officers over his sentencing, and that the working group would come up with results “as soon as possible”.
“Our review will mainly focus on the guidelines, procedures, and training regarding the use of force. We shall see if there is room for improvement in the wake of [Chu’s] case.”
Lo reiterated that Occupy was a 79-day “illegal occupation” unprecedented in the city’s history of policing, and officers had “performed their duties under such a complicated situation and high pressure”. Referring to Chu’s case, he said every member of the force felt “very sad”.
Meanwhile, hundreds of police sympathisers took to the streets on Sunday, marching to the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai to show “support for police enforcement”. They demanded an independent commission be set up to monitor how judges hand out jail sentences.
Organisers estimated a turnout of about 7,000, while police put the figure closer to 3,000.