Seven Hong Kong police officers were on Tuesday convicted of assaulting pro-democracy protester Ken Tsang Kin-chiu (曾健超) during the 2014 Occupy Central protests, also known as the “Umbrella movement.”
In the early morning hours of Oct. 15, 2014, the officers took Tsang to a secluded corner of Tamar Park and proceeded to beat him. A Hong Kong district court found all seven officers guilty of “assault occasioning actual bodily harm,” leaving them each facing a maximum of three years in prison.
The verdict was a sharp warning to the Hong Kong Police Force — and the territory’s government — that violence toward members of the public will not be tolerated.
In a civilized democratic society, there can be absolutely no tolerance of violence perpetrated by organs of the state. If there is, it would mean that there is a tacit acceptance that police are hooligans who have swapped their casual clothes for uniforms, which would mean that police are allowed to use the powers bestowed upon them by the state to engage in uncontrollable violence, a much more frightening idea than the same kind of violence committed by common hooligans.
It took two years and four months for investigators and Hong Kong’s legal system to finally bring these police officers to justice, but how does Taiwan compare to the territory?
On March 24, 2014, when the Sunflower movement was in full swing, blood flowed on the square in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei. A teacher was left covered in blood, while a doctor fell to the ground, writhing in pain.
Footage clearly shows police brandishing riot shields and batons, attacking unarmed students and lashing out at the heads, faces and backs of protesting members of the public.
The riot police involved in the incident were all captured clearly on camera. Despite this, almost three years have passed since the event took place, and the names, units, ranks and precincts of these officers are still unknown.
The officers in question all have faces: Are investigators unable to cross-check these individuals against the national register of police officers or use facial recognition techniques to discover their identities? If this is somehow not possible, then it is a wonder that police investigators are ever able to track down and arrest any criminals.
It begs the question: Are senior police officers intentionally dragging their feet? Has an investigations unit actually been assigned to this case and is it conducting an investigation?
If riot police who were not involved in the incident want to avoid having their names blackened by those violent officers, why do they not expose the rotten apples hiding within their ranks?
Contrasting the situations in Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is difficult to avoid asking whether Taiwan really is the democratic and civilized society that it claims to be.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired National Hsinchu University of Education associate professor and a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Edward Jones