Police officers hold the line in Admiralty during the illegal "Occupy Central" movement in 2014. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG - Former security secretary Lai Tung-kwok praised the performance of the Hong Kong Police Force in dealing with the gravely disruptive events in recent years.
Fortunately, they maintained a high level of morale, displayed the utmost professionalism and controlled their tempers so that the occupation ended in a peaceful way
Lai Tung-kwok, Former Security Secretary, Hong Kong
In his tenure as security secretary, Lai faced some of the city’s most serious public disturbances, including the illegal “Occupy Central” movement in 2014 and the Mong Kok riot in 2016.
Lai revealed that he and senior government officials often encouraged police officers during this difficult period. He commended the hard work of officers, who worked very long hours under pressure and were sometimes abused by protesters.
“They were under huge pressure. Fortunately, they maintained a high level of morale, displayed the utmost professionalism and controlled their tempers so that the occupation ended in a peaceful way,” he said.
The former security chief noted that the High Court had convicted three key suspects of rioting in Mong Kok. Sentences will be handed down on June 11.
The defense counsel read out mitigation letters from many people, including foreigners, and they are highly politicized people. The judge has now heard the defense’s attempt to rationalize the violent conduct of the convicts.
Lai said: “It was a very severe matter involving people assaulting police officers and committing arson. Many officers were injured. The area of the riot was rather large; many bricks were dug out from the streets; they had been used as weapons.
“The investigation was difficult but police did a good job,” Lai said. “Prosecution or not depends on evidence, legal advice and then it is for the court to adjudicate.
“This is the good thing about Hong Kong’s judicial system that we cherish. I believe the judge will fully respond to mitigation letters in her written judgment,” he noted.
Lai’s interview coincided with the last working day of police assistant-commissioner Steve Hui Chun-tak.
Hui held daily media briefings at 4 pm during the 79-day illegal “Occupy Central” sit-in as the police’s public relations chief. Lai described it as unprecedented for police to brief the media daily and respond to false information and accusations.
Lai was also greatly shocked by the Manila hostage siege in August 2010, when Hong Kong tourists were held at gunpoint. Nine people, including the perpetrator, died in the tragedy.
Lai escorted the survivors back home two days after the shooting. Through diplomatic negotiations, the matter was finally settled after the Philippine president apologized on a visit to Hong Kong last month.
Lai became under-secretary for security after he retired from the Immigration Department in 2009.
Lai, who is now 66 years old, was appointed secretary for security in the following term of government in July 2012 – again succeeding his former boss Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong.
Lai was also the third immigration director since Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee to become security head and lead the disciplined services.
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