A top commander in Hong Kong police’s National Security Department has been placed on leave after he was caught in a raid on an unlicensed massage parlour.
Local media reports have named him as Director of National Security Frederic Choi.
A senior police insider told the South China Morning Post that while visiting or “buying service at an unlicensed massage parlour might not constitute an offence that could result in an arrest, Choi could face a disciplinary hearing as his conduct affects the force’s image and damages its reputation”.
Hong Kong police told BBC Chinese in a statement that they were investigating “an allegation of misconduct by a police officer”, adding that the person involved had been placed on leave while the investigation continues.
This is the first big scandal to hit the unit after it was set up to enforce the city’s national security law.
Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Hong Kong last June when it was implemented at Beijing’s behest.
The law criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. The maximum sentence on conviction is life in prison.
Beijing has said the law is necessary to target “sedition” and bring stability.
Since the law was enacted, around 100 people – including prominent pro-democracy activists – have been arrested and some jailed.
Reports say Choi became a police inspector in 1995 and was made senior assistant commissioner and director of the National Security Department last July.
Earlier this year, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam presented the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Government/Public Service to Choi and six other current and retired officers for their “significant contributions to safeguarding national security”.
Choi is also one of seven former and currently serving officers sanctioned by the US in January for “developing, adopting, or implementing the National Security Law” and undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
According to local reports, Choi was a favourite to head the police force in the future.