Editorial: National security chief ‘tripped on the red line’ or ‘ran the red light’? | Apple Daily HK

2021.05.17
Paul Tse Wai chun
Paul Tse Wai-chun

By Lo Fung

Director of National Security Frederic Choi Chin-pang’s alleged visit to an unlicensed massage parlor was a scandal for both the police force and the Hong Kong SAR government. It could also involve the crucial matter of national security, no wonder the pro-CCP crowd is rushing to escort. Unfortunately, it is unsure if it has to do with their low quality, or that they simply do not understand what national security is, and therefore could only throw out arguments that have no basis and be turned into a mockery. Take, for example, lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun who has a professional legal background. In an attempt to cool off the scandal, he had the audacity to say that visiting an unlicensed massage parlor is a “small matter”, one that is even more insignificant than “running a red light”, and called on people not to exaggerate. According to his elaboration, customers visiting illegal massage parlor do not violate the law, just like customers who visit prostitution establishments are not breaking the law, and in both cases, they would not be arrested.

Lawmaker Paul Tse’s saying is interesting. Since very little information has been released by the police regarding Frederic Choi’s case, police chief Chris Tang only admitted that the protagonist of the case was Frederic Choi after being questioned repeatedly by reporters, but other details of the case are simply a mystery; in this circumstance, lawmaker Paul Tse’s comparison of the visit to the illegal massage parlor to a visit to prostitution establishments would only invite more negative impressions and speculations. These are all bound to have negative impacts on Mr. Choi’s and the police force’s reputations, basically no different from kicking Mr. Choi while he is down.

It is undoubtedly a misnomer to say that Frederic Choi’s case is even more minor than running a red light. First of all, running a red light is not a minor offense, for it could cause serious traffic accidents which could lead to casualties to the perpetrator and others. It is definitely not to be taken lightly. Moreover, the police force is an important law enforcement agency in Hong Kong. Citizens and the court all expect police officers, particularly high-ranking cops, to abide by the law and demonstrate the justice of the law and law enforcement. In the past, quite a few high-ranking officials and lawmakers have received complaints from the people for speeding on the highway or improper switching of lanes, to which they had to give proper responses so as to erase the impression of having special privileges. The circumstances of Frederic Choi’s visit to the illegal massage parlor is a much more serious than failing to comply with traffic regulations, and it is natural that the public has a lot of questions and demand reasonable explanations. It is not possible to treat it as a driver running a red light and getting a ticket and points deducted.

Not to mention that Frederic Choi is the chief of the newly established National Security Department. With great power comes great responsibility. Not only is he responsible for Hong Kong’s internal security, but he is also contributing to the overall security of the nation. For someone in such a high-ranking, sensitive position to be allegedly involved in inappropriate, or even unlawful behaviors, what is affected is not just his personal reputation, that of the police force, the authority of the Hong Kong SAR government, but the image of the CCP government. Lawmaker Paul Tse had the audacity to compare side by side something of such significance to “running a red light”, and even believed that this violation is more minor than traffic regulations, one could only say: what an amateur.

The public is most concerned about whether the case would bring negative consequences to the National Security office’s work in its protection of the security of Hong Kong and the country. “Illegal massage parlor” does not clarify anything. It could be an establishment that has yet to apply for a license, or it could be one that offers “additional” services, or even, it could be an establishment operated by criminal groups. If the illegal massage parlor visited by Frederic Choi is operated by criminal groups, he could be threatened for his possession of unfavorable materials to the group, then that would cause problems for the National Security Department’s work and the protection of sensitive materials. In fact, police chief Chris Tang stressed multiple times during the press conference that the Frederic Choi case does not affect the operations and national security work of the National Security Department. Such emphasis reflects how the police management fully understands the sensitivity and importance of this case, and therefore the need to distribute reassurance. Could it be that lawmaker Paul Tse believes that the highest level of the police force is making a big deal out of nothing?

At the moment, the involved Frederic Choi is still on leave, and the case is now followed up by the crime squad. Before the investigation produces results, Mr. Choi should definitely be treated with the “presumption of innocence” under the common law (unlike the many recent cases involving national security that resulted in detainment and imprisonment prior to judgments), and to allow for the crime squad to have enough time to carry out a comprehensive, in-depth investigation. The problem is that the government and the police force are strictly covering up the news and information. Frederic Choi’s case was, in fact, exposed by the media more than a month after its occurrence thanks to “whistle-blowing”. It was clear that the police force had kept the public in the dark for a long time, and only admitted when it had no other choice. Such hush-hush is not only sketchy and sneaky, but also smells of the motive to conceal the case. It only adds to the public’s and the international community’s misgivings and worries that even transparency has evanesced in Hong Kong.

In order to prevent the case from cause greater anxiety and repercussions, the police force must complete the investigation as soon as possible and give an explanation to the public. It needs to clarify whether Frederic Choi was negligent in the case, his responsibilities, and his future prospect in the department. Only by doing so will the police force demonstrate that it has not, and will not give a green light to misdemeanors and to settle the public’s doubts. If this is dragged on, or concealed, rumors and speculations will only grow, the blow to the integrity of the police force and the Hong Kong government will only hurt more.

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