HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's outgoing police chief took a parting shot Monday at pro-democracy protesters who occupied busy streets in parts of the southern Chinese financial center for nearly three months last year.
Retiring Police Commissioner Tsang Wai-hung did not refer directly to the pro-democracy activists, or to other groups that have led unruly demonstrations since then over grievances such as the growing influx of mainland Chinese shoppers, though there was little doubt whom he was talking about.
"Now, because of increasing radicalization of protests, we have seen an increasing sense of lawlessness with protesters blatantly disregarding the law," Tsang told reporters.
"This is not going to be good for Hong Kong. This is not going to be good for law and order," he said, urging people to adhere to the law if they want to "fight for their political beliefs."
Tsang, known for taking a tough stance, has been criticized over the police force's handling of the "Occupy Central" protests.
The protests spiraled into chaos during the last weekend in September, when officers arrested student leaders and later fired dozens of rounds of tear gas at the demonstrators.
The former British colony's police force was known as one of the best in Asia but its reputation took a battering over heavy-handed tactics.
In one of the darkest moments for the force, seven officers were arrested in November after they were caught on camera beating a handcuffed protester during a nighttime clash the previous month.
Tsang was criticized for being absent from the public eye and from daily media briefings during the protests. Tsang's replacement, Lo Wai-chung, promised to strengthen communication with the public so that people could better understand the force's work.
The protests fizzled as authorities refused to yield to demands that the Hong Kong government drop plans to let Beijing screen all candidates in a planned 2017 election for the territory's top leader. Lo said police are monitoring developments and assessing risks ahead of an expected vote by lawmakers in June on the government's electoral reform package.