Police staff associations on Friday effectively accused the vice-chancellor of Chinese University, Rocky Tuan, of radicalising anti-government protesters, suggesting he could have incited the protest clashes at the university a year ago.
In an open letter on Friday, the groups said Tuan should ask himself whether a letter he had penned to students after hours of emotional talks at the height of the unrest had sparked further violence in society.
The groups, representing superintendents, inspectors, overseas inspectors and junior officers, claimed that Tuan's letter on October 18 last year called for police accused of brutality to be investigated and condemned. They complained that he had not even questioned the accusations made against the force by his students, and demanded he clarify his remarks.
However, while Tuan's letter did cite reports from students regarding alleged mistreatment they had suffered at the hands of the police, the professor described these as "allegations" and said "any proven case of improper use of force or violations of human rights by certain police officers must be condemned".
The professor had also urged students to file formal complaints to the authorities so that prompt, fair and open investigations could be carried out, and said the police should ensure that they do not infringe upon the rights of people they arrest and detain.
But the police groups said Tuan had not bothered to find out "the truth" before "publicly questioning" the force, suggesting that his words might have sparked the prolonged clashes between protesters and police at the university's campus in Sha Tin last November.
"It is hard to rule out that your support to students might have caused 'black-clad rioters' to become more radical" the associations said.
The battles at the university saw protesters hurling petrol bombs, bricks and various other objects at riot police who responded by firing rubber bullets and more than 2,300 canisters of tear gas.
In response to the police associations' remarks, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the officers had launched an attack on the vice-chancellor.
"I think this is not only an insult to Professor Tuan ... it's an insult to the [entire] education sector," Ip said.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To, meanwhile, said the associations' letter had only added fuel to the fire, and it appeared to fly in the face of a comment made earlier on Friday by Police Commissioner Chris Tang about the force seeking to "garner popular support".