Hong Kong police chief admits attending Omicron-hit birthday party

South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 28 2022 08:47 AM

Hong Kong's police chief on Thursday said his attendance at an Omicron-hit birthday bash that landed several senior officials in quarantine earlier this month was part of efforts to engage with the community and meet important stakeholders.

Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee made the remarks at his first public appearance since he completed his two weeks of home isolation and returned to work on Monday.

Siu refused to go into any detail of his activities at the party or during his quarantine, amid an ongoing internal investigation. But the police chief apologized once again for creating an additional burden on society.

"I and my colleagues will try our best to avoid unnecessary social gatherings as long as the pandemic is not yet under control," he said.

Siu mentioned that party host and birthday boy Witman Hung Wai-man, a delegate to the national legislature, had a long working relationship with the force as a member of the Hong Kong Road Safety Patrol for more than 25 years, including five as the head of the group.

The commissioner said the force had adopted the strategy of community engagement for more than 20 years, meeting with local leaders and members of the public to strengthen communication and spread crime prevention messages.

Siu added that, as police chief, he needed to set a good example on how to engage with the community.

"As for this case, the host of this event, Mr Hung, has a very long working relationship with us from a road safety perspective," Siu said, adding he had no personal dealings with him.

"Personally I think there is a need, and it is important for us to maintain strong public relations with members of the public, including community leaders, including different stakeholders."

Siu is one of 15 high-ranking officials facing a disciplinary inquiry ordered by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has expressed "deep disappointment" at the group's disregard for the government's own advice on avoiding large gatherings in the middle of a worrying Omicron outbreak.

Party guests were ordered to undergo government quarantine or home isolation after it emerged two people attended while infected with the coronavirus.

Siu spent one night in the government's Penny's Bay quarantine camp on January 7, but like many of the others, he was allowed to spend the rest of his two weeks of isolation at home - using his own holidays - after it was determined he was unlikely to have been exposed. He had to receive multiple compulsory Covid-19 tests before returning to work.

Aside from the officials, 20 lawmakers were among about 200 guests who attended the Hung's 53rd birthday party at the Reserva Iberica Spanish restaurant in Wan Chai on January 3.

Home affairs minister Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, immigration chief Au Ka-wang and Allen Fung Ying-lun, a political assistant to the development minister, were forced to use their own leave to spend 14 days in Penny's Bay.

City leader Lam said earlier this week that the results of the investigation into the conduct of the officials would be announced before the start of Lunar New Year. She urged the public not to consider the officials a "homogenous" bloc, saying they would be judged individually and based on the facts.

The Post has learned that Lam wants Tsui out of his role and the central government has already started on the procedures involved.

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