HKPF not impacted by equipment export sanctions: police chief

By Chen Qingqing and Fan Lingzhi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/26 21:34:53

Natl security law enforcement requires comprehensive consideration of factors; no one-size-fits-all approach

 The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has been working with various places around the world in terms of equipment procurement and training, and has not focused on one single country, so the equipment export sanctions will have little impact on the HKPF, and the unilateral move to cut ties or suspend exports would only cost the other countries involved, Chris Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Police of the HKPF, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview. 

The remarks were made after the European Union endorsed a framework of possible EU and national actions on Friday, including curbing the export of equipment and technologies used for law enforcement in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). 

The move comes after the US government recently adopted a series of moves that include suspending the export of US-origin defense equipment and imposing restrictions on the exports of US defense and dual-use technologies to the HKSAR. The US government also signed a sanction bill into law and is mulling on further sanctions concerning officials involved in the passage of the national security law.

"In fact, since September 2019, the HKPF has stopped sending staff to law enforcement agencies in the US for training and communication due to the complex geopolitical situation," Tang said, adding that in terms of training and equipment procurement, the police force has kept in close contact with different places from around the world, rather than focusing on only one country. 

The HKPF has been under the spotlight since the anti-extradition bill protests in 2019, which then turned into citywide chaos. As law enforcers, the police force has been constantly smeared, accused and attacked by anti-government forces, while some Western media outlets have also called the police law enforcement "brutal and violent," dismissing the fact that there have been 615 police officers injured since the protests first broke out. 
When the death of George Floyd triggered multiple Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the US, many called the double standards and hypocrisy of some members of the US Congress and US media for being critical and tough toward their domestic massive nationwide demonstrations, but encouraging violent activities in Hong Kong.

"Personally speaking, it's my honor and duty to safeguard national security. As a Chinese person, it's also a righteous responsibility to safeguard my own country's safety," Tang said. 

As Commissioner of Police, Tang sees law enforcement "absolutely legitimate and reasonable," and any sanction from any country based on political reasons has absolute zero impact on him, noting that he doesn't fear the sanctions. 

After the national security law for Hong Kong took effect and some implementation rules unveiled, the HKPF was widely believed to have "sweeping power" and some anti-China non-governmental organizations even called that the law risks turning the city into "police state." However, such claims are based on no understanding of current local laws in Hong Kong without looking into the details of the law. 

For instance, the implementation rules for Article 43 of the national security law for Hong Kong provides legal guarantees for police to apply the law and safeguard national interests, and grants the police several powers including raiding without a court warrant and ordering internet firms to remove content, or seizing their equipment, among them, four are existing practices, which are applicable to the national security law and extension of existing power, according to the police chief. 

"Two rules - removal of messages endangering national security and requiring foreign political organizations or Taiwan political organizations to provide information - are appropriate amendments under the existing legal framework," Tang said. 

What might be considered a "new power" is the requirement to remove messages, Tang said. "In fact, many countries have similar rules and powers; for example, in Germany, Australia and Singapore, local regulations empower law enforcement departments to remove information, and this was not created by Hong Kong," he added. 

Anti-government protests broke out in Hong Kong shortly after the law came into force and police made first arrests under the law at the beginning of July. While some wonder about the legal boundaries during the law enforcement process, some suspects shouting pro-independence slogans or holding up flags calling for independence, instigating subversion have been targeted by the law. 

Chris Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police. Photo: Screenshot of video interview with the GT

While the law gives out explicit stipulation on four types of offences, each case has different characteristics, requiring comprehensive consideration of "a basket of factors," and there is no one-size-fit-all approach, Tang said. 

"The police will take a look at the whole behavior of targeted personnel including whether they have the intention of instigating subversion, their behavior, objects they hide and impact on the public and so on," he said. 

In addition, like other criminal cases, the police need to check the situation on the ground including the evidence and environment. If there is sufficient evidence to prove that a person has violated the law, the police will strictly enforce the law, Tang added. 

The HKPF has been making continuous efforts to safeguard national security, and the relevant provisions to achieve this goal also exist in the existing laws of Hong Kong, such as Public Order Ordinance and Societies Ordinance. 

"The establishment of the national security law for Hong Kong clearly sets out the responsibilities of the HKPF, making law enforcement work clearer and fixing legal loopholes," the police chief said. 

To make sure the newly-established national security department of the HKPF fully operate, relevant departments would be equipped with sufficient staff in order to handle and investigate cases relevant to national security, Tang noted. 

With abundant experiences in criminal investigation, international liaison as well as operation command, Tang sees his training and communication experiences with the Chinese mainland "very useful."

According to open resume information, Tang has received training in China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong, Shanghai, Chinese People's Public Security University and Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing. 

When he looked back into his past learning experiences on the mainland, although it was over a decade ago, such experiences had broadened his horizons, Tang told the Global Times. 

"This is very good experience for me to become police chief. Besides training classes, I also got the chance to go and look around in different places and have a strong feeling about how fast my country had advanced in high technology and other developments," he said, noting that without having training on the mainland, he wouldn't have any idea about how fast the country has been developing. 

Those schools are the places our country trains senior talents, and through those trainings, I have gained a lot of understanding of our country's situation and national policies covering economic, political, people's life, culture and so on, Tang said. "It's enhanced my recognition of national identity, which will bring me a lifetime of benefits."

The HKPF has been maintaining training and cooperation mechanisms with the mainland law enforcement authorities, and the two sides have been also keeping in close communication before and after the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong, with the aim of jointly work and coordination, Tang said. 

The law requires that the national security department of the HKPF and the office for safeguarding national security of the central government in the HKSAR to establish coordination mechanism in enhancing information sharing and action collaboration. 

"I'm very grateful to the Ministry of Public Security for its strong support and guidance to the HKPF in the past, as always, we will continue to work closely together to safeguard national security," he said. 

In December 2019, footage showing Tang watching soldiers raise the Chinese national flag in Tiananmen Square went viral on internet, as this was his first official trip to the capital city of China as police chief of the HKSAR. However, that was not the first time Tang went to a flag-raising ceremony. "Every time I visit Beijing, I go watching the ceremony if I have a chance, and I can't even remember how many times I have attended," he said. 

"Whenever I see the national flag flying in the air, I'm particularly moved, because I can feel the greatness of our country and I'm proud of being Chinese," Tang said.

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