China’s State Council in Beijing on Tuesday confirmed the appointment of Chris Tang Ping-keung as police commissioner for Hong Kong.
Tang, nominated to the position by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, was hailed in Chinese media as a “more decisive” top cop than outgoing Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung, who has held the position since 2015.
“Hong Kong media reported that Tang is considered more hawkish than his predecessor, suggesting he might take tougher measures to quell the unrest and help restore order. Experts noted that this decision on the new police chief shows that both the central government and the HKSAR government hopes that law-enforcement in the region will be more effective and decisive,” China’s state-run Global Times wrote approvingly.
According to the Global Times, only the “rioters” disapprove of Tang because he took a “tough stance” against them during the 2014 “Occupy Central” protests, also known as the Umbrella Movement, which were the largest challenge to China’s authority over Hong Kong until now.
The Global Times accused the current protest movement of fabricating “rumors to smear Tang’s reputation,” such as insinuating “he was involved in gangster activities.”
“We can see Tang’s leadership has already started to change the style of police law enforcement. This could be more effective in stopping the violence and chaos across the city,” retired Hong Kong police officer Joe Chan Cho-kwong told the Global Times.
As for the outgoing Lo, the Global Times said he was supposed to retire in November 2018, but stayed on for an extra year at the request of the government.
“Tang has served in the Hong Kong Police Force for over 30 years and has extensive experience in criminal investigation, international liaison as well as operational command. He has distinguished performance and possesses proven leadership skills. I am confident that he will lead the police force in meeting the challenges ahead,” Lam said of the new commissioner.
She said Lo made “commendable efforts in maintaining Hong Kong as one of the safest cities in the world.”
“He has demonstrated dedication and determination in safeguarding Hong Kong and upholding the rule of law in dealing with social unrest in the past few months,” she said of the departing commissioner.
The South China Morning Post noted Lo’s departure was very quiet, without fanfare or a farewell dinner, or any mention that crime reached a 48-year-low under his tenure before the protests exploded five months ago.
“There is simply nothing worth celebrating at this moment, as the city is on the brink of a total breakdown. The sentiment in the force is not that good. Lo wants to keep a low profile,” a senior police source told the SCMP.
Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists blasted Lo, calling him “the worst police chief ever” and complaining that cops became “uncontrollable” under his tenure. Pro-Beijing lawmakers were much more supportive of Lo, describing him as a “kind man” who did very well against street crime but did not have the “iron fist” needed to restore order, and was perhaps a little too wooden during press conferences.
The latest accusation of police brutality in Hong Kong was leveled on Tuesday, as a van carrying elite police officers from the Special Tactical Squad was seen deliberately driving into a crowd of demonstrators:
This is one horrifying video, seeing police charges the protesters with a van, without much consideration or concerns that they will crash them
— Cloud |???? (@cloudyip) November 19, 2019
A police official responded by saying it was not unsafe for the police vehicle to drive into a crowd at high speed because “our police officers, they are all well-trained.”
“If you always worry about why the police do this and why the police do that, perhaps that may send some wrong [messages] to the public. Trust us and support us,” he told reporters.