Once respected, Hong Kong police now reviled by protesters

HONG KONG- Hong Kong’s police force have long prided themselves as being “Asia’s finest”. But their hard-won reputation for honest and impartial policing is at risk from accusations of double standards and brutality following violent clashes with pro-democracy protesters, lawmakers and analysts say.

Video footage showing plainclothes officers beating a handcuffed protester as he lay on the ground created shockwaves Wednesday, just over a fortnight after riot officers fired teargas for the first time in years at crowds of largely peaceful demonstrators.

Protesters have also accused police of standing by during repeated attacks by pro-government thugs while using what what they describe as disproportionate violence against their ranks in a series of confrontations in recent days.

“Trust between police and protesters, which was repaired after the use of teargas, is gone now,” Surya Deva, a law professor at City University of Hong Kong told AFP.

“The root cause of the violence is the government’s use of police force to deal with a political problem.”

The city’s police force was created in 1844 after the British took control of the territory from China three years earlier. By the 1960s it was notorious for accepting bribes and even colluding with the city’s triad gangs.