How the police should mend fences

December 18, 2019 11:50
Amid widespread criticism over their handling of the street protests, Hong Kong’s police have seen their public approval ratings plummet. Photo: Reuters

More than six months into the protest movement that was triggered by the government's now-abandoned extradition bill, a topic uppermost in the minds of Hong Kong people is the perceived brutality and abuse of power by the police force.

The animosity between the protesters, particularly the young and radical elements among them, and law enforcement personnel has run so deep that it is almost beyond reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the new police commissioner, Chris Tang Ping-keung, has been busy giving media interviews during which he has repeatedly stressed that under his leadership the law enforcement will be both “tough and soft” on the ongoing protests.

We agree that it would be a right direction to take. The reason is that while it will take time for the police to repair its public image, adopting a more flexible, or even softer, approach to dealing with protesters can at least prevent the situation from worsening.

According to the findings of a recent poll carried out by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, the police is currently ranked the lowest among all the disciplined services in Hong Kong in terms of public approval ratings, with some 40 percent of respondents giving the police zero marks.

Commenting on the plummeting public image of the police, Commissioner Tang blamed the negative feelings toward the force partly on “fake news”.

True, rumors or fake news may have played a part in ruining the public's image of the police as Tang has claimed.

But the question is, has our law enforcement really remained flawless while carrying out its duty over the past half year?

Is it really a fair statement to say that the police itself is not to blame whatsoever for its currently rock-bottom popularity?

As the old Chinese saying goes, “even saints make mistakes”, and we believe it will help the police if they do sincere soul-searching and introspection.

If the police wish to allay citizens' concerns and regain popular support, they should review their actions and then give the public a proper account of what has been done right as well as what has been done wrong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal