A confused ‘clarification’

Paulo Coutinho

The Public Security Police (PSP) issued a communique last Friday (Feb 3) through the official government channels to the media. The same text was made publicly available on the Government Information Bureau (GCS) website.

In the press release, they made serious accusations against “an English media outlet” for the sake of “clarifying” what they labeled a “false” news report over an incident involving a Hong Kong couple and a taxi driver who insanely overcharged the two tourists for a taxi ride from the Venetian to Wynn Palace on January 30 (the 3rd day of the Year of the Rooster).

Since we are an “English media outlet” we set out to check the said reporting and came to the “astonishing” conclusion that all facts stated are true and that the PSP’s communique essentially confirms it. (Our comments have been inserted in the square brackets.)

“The taxi driver concerned admitted that he overcharged the above-mentioned woman [the Filipina wife], and our Force has handled the case appropriately [how?]. On the other hand, investigation found that the content of the video clip only showed the malpractice [!] of the taxi driver concerned and did not target on [sic] the personal privacy of the driver [!!]. After a comprehensive analysis [?], it was concluded that the above-mentioned incident [violation of privacy?] did not constitute a criminal offence and no one was detained in the incident,” reads the PSP press release.

So the big question is what is the police “denying” or “clarifying” exactly?!

How can the police keep someone, anyone, in custody for 5 to 6 hours and say “no one was detained?”

Detention is a deprivation of liberty. Someone who is (either legally or illegally) coerced to stay in a confined place and not authorized to leave is deprived of liberty, and is therefore under detention.

Detention, as used in the report, is the accurate term, a legal expert told us, “particularly when they had their identification with them, and the police does not claim that they refused to provide such identification. Actually, only lawful detention would warrant a deprivation of liberty.”

In this trade, we are used to people blaming the press, the messenger, because we are normally the bearer of unfortunate news. But we are shocked to see this kind of behavior from a police force, gratuitously attacking the reputation of a media organization that was simply doing its job.

So, we contacted the couple who confirmed that all the facts reported by the “English media outlet” “are true.” Moreover, the husband, a British national, considers the PSP communique to be intriguing, very confusing, and misleading.

“Is this common police practice in Macau?” he asked perplexed, while informing us that, “We have replied to the Police Statement… and suggested that they review their report to correct the inaccuracies.”

The police failed to mention that there were complaints filed with them (namely overcharging and violation of privacy); they failed to mention that the taxi driver was at the station for a very short period of time while the couple was held for over 5 hours pending investigation.

What’s more, is that new facts – some alarming – are finding their way to us.

A source familiar with the case told the Times that the police officer at the scene of the incident (somewhere about Wynn Palace) communicated to the couple that for HKD3,000 the taxi driver would be willing to “let go” of the accusation of “privacy violation,” just prior to escorting everyone to the station, because, naturally, the couple refused the preposterous proposal.

We also learned that the couple, as advised by their lawyer, filed a complaint to the Tourism Department, which redirected them to the Traffic Bureau (DSAT), claiming that the latter is the entity which supervises taxi operations.

In the meantime, the “bad apple” is out there free to pursue his greedy unlawful activity – as far as we know. What did the police do? What does “handling the case appropriately” mean? We don’t know, but we want to know.

Pursuant to the applicable law, the police shall “guarantee the fundamental rights and liberties of citizens” as well as assuring “respect for the law.” Since they chose to participate in this public debate, we seek a clarification on how these goals were implemented in the reported case.

We also seek clarification from the police as to whether they are talking about us, Macau Daily Times, which reported the incident. They failed to display the courage or decency to name the “English media outlet” and such lack of transparency looks poor on any police force badge.

Categories Editorial