21 May 2019
Development Secretary Michael Wong has assured the police that he never intended to offend or target them when he made some comments last week on human nature. Photo: HKEJ
Development Secretary Michael Wong has assured the police that he never intended to offend or target them when he made some comments last week on human nature. Photo: HKEJ

Michael Wong seeks to reassure police after ‘hurtful’ remarks

Development Secretary Michael Wong Wai-lun expressed concern that some remarks he made last week wherein he made a passing reference to police conduct have become a topic of controversy.

Referring to his words on July 19 that “not every policeman is a good guy” and the subsequent furor within the law enforcement community, Wong said he made the comment in an offhand way and that he didn’t intend to specifically target the police force.

The remarks were made in the context of elaborating on the complexity of human nature, and were not aimed at the police, the senior government official said, stressing that he has no doubt that Hong Kong’s police force is made up of men and women of good character and integrity. 

Wong gave the explanation after he drew strong criticism from a police association over his utterances at a forum last Thursday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

During an interaction with teenagers at the Hong Kong Book Fair, Wong touched on social problems and shared a quotation from a book written by Keigo Higashino, a popular Japanese author whose mystery novels that Wong said he was a fan of.

“Criminals are not necessarily bad guys. There can be much objective reasoning behind a crime, and there may be areas we can sympathize on,” Wong said aloud, using the words of his favorite author. 

Likewise, “not every policeman is a good guy”, he concluded.

Wong used the police reference to make a point, but the words still caused unhappiness within the force.

The Junior Police Officers’ Association (JPOA) issued a statement on Thursday saying that it deems Wong’s analogy as being inappropriate.

It said it is distressed about the remarks, and that it fears the public might get the impression that a top government official himself doesn’t have a high opinion of the police.

Wong had hurt police officers’ morale and confidence with his words, the association said, and called on him to clarify his comments.

Such remarks are painful, even more so coming from a bureau chief, the statement said.

In response, Wong, who had once served as Deputy Secretary for Security, wrote a letter to the association Thursday afternoon, stressing that he had merely made some offhand remarks and that they should not be misconstrued. 

The official said he never intended to offend or target the police force and police officers. He stressed that he believes police personnel are dedicated to their job, and assured the law enforcement officers that he has deep respect for them.

Explaining that he simply wanted to point out that humans are complex beings, Wong outlined the view that those traditionally labeled as having negative sides could possibly possess benevolence, and those labeled positively are not necessarily fully perfect.

The development chief said he will fully support the police force’s work as he has in the past, and added that he hope his letter can relieve the association of its unease and concern.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said he can understand the force’s response to Wong’s remarks, but pointed out that Wong had only tried to share his reflection on a book.

Chueng stressed that the government respects and cherishes the contributions of the police. 

From an outsider perspective, it does seem that the police have over-reacted to Wong’s remarks.

One should bear in mind that there have indeed been bad apples in the Hong Kong police force.

Data released on Wednesday by the police showed 24 officers were arrested in the first six months of the year, up 84.6 percent from the same period last year. Eighteen police officers were arrested for criminal offences.

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