As handover looms, Hong Kong police ponder future
June 18, 1997
Web posted at: 1:09 p.m. EDT (1709 GMT)
HONG KONG (CNN) -- The Royal Hong Kong Police is monitoring
more than just criminal activity these days. With the
historic handover of Hong Kong to China just weeks away, the
police force is keeping a close eye on how, or if, its role
will change, amid public fears that the force could become an
instrument of repression.
Police officials insist the people of Hong Kong have nothing
to fear, that their freedoms are not at risk.
"Our instructors tell us the responsibility of the police is
to help the public and uphold the law. I am sure our duties
will remain the same," said cadet Chow Chee-Kang, who is
a member of the last class of cadets to attend the Royal Hong
Kong Police training academy.
One of the reasons for the public concern is that the
chief executive of post-colonial Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa,
has introduced laws giving the police significant new powers,
including the right to ban demonstrations and restrict
freedom of association on the grounds of national security.
British police officers will still be allowed to serve after
the July 1 handover.
Chief Superintendent Harry Blud of the Royal Hong Kong Police
assures that the force's mentality will not change. He said
many people are wondering what will happen if a demonstration
being policed on the night of the handover lasts until the
early hours of July 1.
"If that demonstration carries on into the wee hours of the
first of July, is our approach to policing going to change?"
he asked. "The answer is no."
Of far greater concern, he said, is the possibility of a rise
in post-handover corruption, a problem rampant in China,
especially among police.
"One of the major concerns that has been raised to me is the
potential for corruption -- not just in the police but in
Hong Kong generally -- will increase," he said. "We are
acutely aware of that potential."
Police officials insist that after the handover, their force
will use its considerable firepower to tackle criminals, not
dissidents, while maintaining Hong Kong's liberal social
values. The people of this territory can only hope they are
Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy contributed to this
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