Sixteen members of the entertainment industry have donated HK$7,777,777 to the APO Relief Fund, set up by Beijing loyalist Maria Tam Wai-chu for the families of seven police officers convicted last month of assault against pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang in 2014.
The donors included TVB boss Charles Chan Kwok-keung, TVB non-executive director Mona Fong Yat-wah, TVB CEO Mark Lee Po-on, China Star Entertainment Group chairman Charles Heung Wah-keung, and Sun Entertainment Culture founder Alvin Chau Cheok-wa, who all gave HK$1 million each.
Movie director Wong Jing and actor Eric Tsang Chi-wai were also among the donors.
Heung’s wife, Tiffany Chen Ming-yin, presented a cheque to the fund on Sunday. She said it was a “coincidence” that all of the digits of the amount were seven. In Cantonese, the word “seven” has the same pronunciation as a swear word, but with a different tone.
The Taxi Drivers and Operators Association also donated around HK$456,000 to the fund on Sunday. A spokesperson said it raised the amount from more than 28,000 members within a week.
Around 50 members also staged a protest in support of the convicted officers outside the Police Headquarters on Sunday.
Its former chairman Cheng Yuk-kai told the press: “[The officers made] a technical mistake. Simply put, there may be a violation of the law, but they only used excessive force when trying to arrest a thief who was resisting. In the eyes of the public, this is a technical issue.”
The association is known for its pro-establishment position. Last year, Cheng filed a judicial review challenge over the oaths of eight pro-democracy lawmakers. In 2014, the group sought an injunction order from the court against protesters in Mong Kok during the Occupy movement.
Last week, three firefighter staff unions urged members to donate to the fund. Some firefighters were worried that “siding with convicts” would hurt the reputation of the Fire Services Department, HK01 reported. The department has, for years, come first in the University of Hong Kong’s poll on the popularity of disciplinary forces.
Chairman of the Hong Kong Fire Services Officers Association Yang King-sang said that the unions wanted to show solidarity with their colleagues in the disciplinary forces. He said the unions did not have a position on the court’s ruling, nor did they want to challenge it.
Two other unions associated with the Fire Services Department – the Ambulance Officers Association and the Ambulancemen’s Union – declined to join the call for donations.
Leaders of both unions said they did not want to be involved in the “controversial and politicisied” issue. They said they believe ambulance officers should remain politically neutral, and hence decided not to participate.
Conflict of interest
Maria Tam said during a rare closed-door police rally last month that the APO Relief Fund will primarily be put towards the families of the seven convicted officers, but any extra donations will go to a police welfare fund.
RTHK reported that Tam’s foundation may not be able to donate to the welfare fund, as there are restrictions on donations from external parties to the police force. A deputy police commissioner will decide whether to accept the money.
Pro-democracy lawmaker and former anti-graft officer Lam Cheuk-ting said Monday that the force should decline donations from donors with “questionable backgrounds,” including ex-convicts.
He warned that accepting the donations would damage the force’s reputation and might constitute a conflict of interest.
The relief fund said it has raised around HK$20 million so far.