Police top brass confront growing demands from officers

March 03, 2020 18:34
A file picture of the Police Headquarters in Wan Chai. The Police Credit Union is said to have begun providing loans for doxxed officers to help them seek school change for their kids. Photo: HKEJ

Following its controversial record during the 2019 anti-government protests, the Hong Kong police has once again found itself under the scanner, this time due to a government proposal to boost the budgetary allocation for the law enforcement force to as much as HK$25.7 billion in 2020-21.

According to an initial schedule, Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung was due to attend a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security on Tuesday and report to lawmakers on the current state of crime-fighting, and, perhaps, answer a few questions.

Yet, the meeting has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and Tang will have to fix another date for the briefing even as he avoided a grilling by pan-dem lawmakers for now.

In the meantime, the law enforcement’s request for a substantial increase in government funding has created a “butterfly effect” among its ranks, as there has been talk that police officers of medium and junior ranks have begun to call for a loosening of the purse strings and enhance the welfare benefits for the officers.

According to sources, the Hong Kong Police Credit Union (HKPCU), an entity which is operated separately from the police force’s official budget, has begun providing “children transfer school education loans” for doxxed police officers to help them seek school change for their kids.

After the anti-extradition bill movement kicked off in June last year, some protesters vented their anger at the police by doxxing individual officers, publishing private or identifying information about the officers, their families and friends online, as a way of exacting revenge.

Many police officers were particularly concerned about the potential risk of their children getting harassed in school.

It is against such a backdrop that the HKPCU has launched the “children transfer school education loan" earlier this year, under which affected police families can borrow a sum of money up to twice as much as their kids’ annual tuition fees, with a ceiling of HK$300,000, to help find alternative schools for the children to help them escape taunts and harassment.

The loan is applicable to children of the police families who are either enrolled in local schools or studying abroad, regardless of their grades.

However, since the HKPCU is only providing repayable loans but not allowances, many within the police, who are concerned about the education issue of their kids, are said to have raised “several demands” with the police management, including re-launching the overseas education allowance scheme for civil servants’ children, which was scrapped before the 1997 handover.

Amid such demand, the police top brass is said to have has told the rank and file that the law enforcement force would rather push for the reintroduction of overseas education allowances for all the disciplined services as a whole, instead of only for the police force.

It is because asking for extra funding or diverting additional resources exclusively for the police department is likely to draw fire from society.

Loaning police families money to allow their children to change schools to avoid potential harassment may help resolve a part of the issue in the short run.

Nonetheless, as long as the collective memories of police brutality and arbitrary arrests that took place during the 2019 protest movement linger among the public, the problem is likely to remain in the long run.

The fact is that many members of the public harbor deep suspicions about the police and absolutely hate the law enforcement force following the events since June last year.

The ill will runs so deep that recently we had reports that some people had gathered on the streets and popped champagne to “celebrate” after a police officer had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

It is an undeniable reality that the police have lost the support of an entire generation of young people in the city.

Tang may have avoided grilling at a Legco meeting for now, but sooner or later, once the coronavirus epidemic subsides, he will have to respond to several key questions.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 29

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.