It's police brutality, not protesters, that's fueling unrest

December 05, 2019 17:10
Riot police arrest a protester during the "Lest We Forget" rally on Sunday. The author believes Hongkongers will pursue their resistance against the abuse of power by the police in a more flexible yet non-violent way. Photo: Reuters

Police brutality has become almost a daily routine in Hong Kong, but our healthcare officials have continued to ignore public health and insist on not publicizing the exact chemical composition of the tear gas used by the police.

In my view, this not only constitutes a violation of professionalism, but is also completely against humanity.

It is exactly the escalating police brutality that is providing the rocket fuel for the ongoing anti-government movement and keeping up its momentum ever since its outbreak in June.

This also explains why the vast majority of the public still remain sympathetic towards radical protesters despite the fact that their degree of violence has reached unprecedented levels.

Public resentment at the police has manifested itself in three aspects.

First, based on the information that has been made public so far, it has been proven crystal-clear that the police have failed to perform their duties properly, committed gross negligence, excessive violence and even crime on multiple occasions.

The most striking and appalling examples of our law enforcement’s dereliction of duty were the “massive disappearance” of the police during the attacks against civilians by white-clad men at the Yuen Long MTR Station on July 21, and the indiscriminate beating of people by police officers themselves at the Prince Edward MTR Station on Aug. 31.

Second, not only have the police been turning a blind eye to their own wrongdoings and trying to explain them away during their press briefings over the past few months, but they also, on many occasions, have been speaking defiantly and even gloating over the sufferings of innocent victims.

I totally understand that it isn’t uncommon for some police officers to snap under stress during intense confrontations with protesters.

However, understanding these issues is one thing, but ignoring or even denying these mistakes is quite another.

Suffice it to say that the wrong attitude adopted by the police towards their own mistakes is even worse than the very mistakes themselves.

Third, apart from these very apparent mistakes, the police also owe the public clear and unambiguous explanations to a number of baffling and unsettling incidents that have taken place in recent months.

These disturbing incidents include the mysterious deaths of the 15-year-old female student of the Hong Kong Design Institute Chan Yin-lam and the 22-year-old male undergraduate student of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Alex Chow Tsz-lok, as well as the two cases on Oct. 1 and Nov. 11, in which police officers fired live rounds at young protesters at point-blank range.

On the other hand, members of the public are also desperate to find out what really happened at the San Uk Ling Holding Centre, and why the requests made by prominent social figures to visit the facility were rejected by the law enforcement, not to mention the allegations that police officers posing as protesters have deliberately committed vandalism and then framed them for it.

The police could have explained these incidents to the public in detail and in a transparent fashion so as to allay social concerns. Yet I just couldn’t understand why our law enforcement decided not to do so.

project that in the coming days, the citizens of Hong Kong will persevere in their resistance against the abuse of power by the police in a more flexible yet equally peaceful, rational and non-violent way.

The recent District Council elections have once again indicated that the people of Hong Kong are determined to uphold their dignity and freedom.

And if the government leadership still turns a deaf ear to their demands, it will not only be very difficult for the administration to govern our city effectively, but it will also be impossible for the police and our principal officials as well as their families to continue to live in Hong Kong with dignity and face.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 27

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Dr. Stephen Chiu Yiu-wah is an associate professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Hong Kong.