Hong Kong Pro-Police Rally Sparks Backlash Over Holocaust Remarks

china-hong-kong-demonstration-police-officers-trial-feb14-2017.jpg Supporters of seven Hong Kong police officers found guilty of beating activist Ken Tsang during the 2014 pro-democracy protests hold placards outside the district court in Hong Kong, Feb. 14, 2017.

Remarks by a Hong Kong policeman who compared the status of law enforcement officers in the city to the sufferings endured by Jews during World War II have sparked a diplomatic backlash, with both Israeli and German diplomats saying the comparison was "inappropriate."

The unnamed speaker told a rally of thousands of police supporters on Wednesday that they were treated similarly to Jews in Nazi Germany.

When he asked the crowd if they agreed with the comparison, the crowd shouted "Yes!"

The speaker, a police officer, had been complaining of growing verbal abuse from members of the public directed at officers on duty.

Israel's consulate in the former British colony issued a statement on Thursday saying the analogy was "inappropriate and regretful," and calling for an end to such analogies, while the German consulate in a statement on Friday slammed the reference as "inappropriate and regretful."

"The reported reference to the Holocaust shows a regrettably insufficient knowledge of historical facts," the statement on the consulate's Facebook page said.

"The Jewish population in Germany was persecuted by the state and all its organs during the Nazi dictatorship and millions lost their lives," it said.

"Therefore the comparison between the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and police officers convicted for an abuse of power is utterly inappropriate," it said.

Officers guilty of assault

The rally was organized after a court in Hong Kong on Friday jailed seven police officers guilty of assaulting pro-democracy politician Ken Tsang during the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement for two years apiece.

Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing, Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, Detective Sergeant Pak Wing-bun, police constable Lau Hing-pui, and detective constables Wong Wai-ho and Kwan Ka-ho were convicted by the city's District Court on Tuesday of kicking, punching, and stepping on Tsang after he was arrested and handcuffed during clashes in October 2014.

The officers were charged after they were filmed live by a cameraman from Hong Kong broadcaster TVB in November 2014.

Video footage streamed lived from protests on Oct. 15, 2014 showed Tsang being beaten and kicked by a group of police officers in a dark area while they were clearing a main road of protesters in a violent crackdown.

Detective constable Chan Siu-tan was given an additional month for common assault for slapping Tsang twice at Central Police Station.

While the seven were found guilty of common assault and causing actual bodily harm, they were acquitted of the more serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

Judge David Dufton said it was appropriate that the seven should serve time in prison, as they had "not only brought dishonor to the Hong Kong Police Force, they have also damaged Hong Kong’s reputation in the international community."

Joe Chan, who heads a police officers' association that helped to organize the rally, said no offense was intended.

But the government said the remarks didn't represent the official position and that it did not endorse them.

Bill on insulting a police officer

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung told RFA that it may be possible to introduce a private bill criminalizing "insulting a police officer."

"We are thinking that the main point of this legislation would be to act as a deterrent, and make it very clear to the public, especially younger people, that there are some things that they mustn't do,"
Leung said.

But pan-democratic politicians hit out at the idea.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said such a law could exacerbate tensions between police and the public, which have worsened since police used tear gas and pepper spray against Occupy Central activists campaigning for fully democratic elections.

"What exactly does it mean to insult a police officer?" Lam asked. "Does it mean that you don't have a very good attitude or that you aren't polite? Does it mean swearing?"

"I don't think we should be considering such laws," he said.

Reported by Wang Siwei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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