The 79-day Occupy Movement of 2014 marked one of the lowest points in the post-handover history of the Hong Kong police force from the public’s perception, with the young activists accusing the officers of abusing their power to quell their legitimate quest for democracy.
Yet it was during that period that one senior police officer stood out to prove his professionalism amid the challenges presented by the daily street protests.
For Steve Hui Chun-tak, it was the most challenging period of his career. For it was his duty to conduct the almost daily press briefings to inform the public of the latest developments in the street protests from the point of view of the police force.
Hui, who will turn 55 on Thursday, retired Monday as Assistant Commissioner of Police (Information Systems Wing) after having served the police force for more than 31 years.
According to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Hui said that serving as the public face of the police force during that period was even more challenging and unforgettable for him than risking his life to catch bad guys early in his career.
In briefing the public about what was going on in the streets and what measures the police were taking, Hui, then the chief superintendent at the public relations branch of the police, represented the force in the joint press conferences that the government had been conducting since the Occupy Movement began on Sept. 28, 2014.
As Hui was always punctual and started the press conferences at 4 p.m. sharp, it became a habit for many Hongkongers to watch his televised briefings and they started calling him “4 pm Hui Sir”. He presided over a total of 33 of those press conferences.
The government’s popularity at the time was very low, but Hui said he never thought of himself as a “buffer” between the administration and the citizens.
He told the HKEJ that he wanted to say sorry to the little children because their favorite cartoon TV programs had to be suspended to give way to the media briefings.
He said the job was the most challenging and tiring of all the posts he had assumed. He only slept two hours a day at the time and had to make sense of the unprecedentedly complicated and lengthy chaos in the streets as soon as he opened his eyes.
Hui stressed that despite condemnation from some members of the public, every word he said during those media briefings, including those in defense of his colleagues, were from the bottom of his heart.
Some of his viewers, including those from the opposition, made fun of his English communication skills and accent. During those briefings, he often said, “I will now recap in English…”
But Hui said he did not mind such criticisms at all and accepted them humbly instead. He said his motto was “Do the best I can and have a clear conscience.”
On the eve of his retirement, Hui said he is happy because police-public relations have improved a lot since the police force launched its own Facebook page and set up a Force Media Liaison Cadre.
The latest survey commissioned by the force shows that public confidence in the police has reached a record high, he said.
Asked what he plans to do after retirement, Hui said he wants to go overseas to visit his family before thinking about the next step.
He said he might return to the job market later if there is a suitable position for him to contribute his management experience and skills.
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