CE must weigh her words before rushing to defend the police

March 12, 2020 16:45
Carrie Lam has urged the public to show understanding and tolerance towards the police despite fresh incidents pointing to questionable conduct of law enforcement officers during anti-protester operations. Photo: HKEJ

Even as the Covid-19 epidemic remains foremost in people's minds, tensions between the police and the public that arose in the wake of the 2019 events have shown no signs of easing.

This past Sunday, during an event held in Tseung Kwan O by a group of citizens to commemorate Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a university student who died four months ago after falling from a height during a police dispersal operation, there were two separate incidents involving the law enforcement that provoked immediate uproar in society.

First, a female journalist with i-Cable News was seen being shoved to the ground by a riot police officer with his shield, slamming her from behind amid a sudden charge.

Next, we had camera footage showing a man, purportedly a passerby, being stopped and cornered by seven police officers inside a car park and yelled at, and later ordered to apologize to the police personnel one by one before he was allowed to go.

When asked by the media to comment on these two incidents during a press briefing prior to an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sought to defend the police, saying it would be impossible for officers to ensure things always go without a hitch when enforcing the law during chaotic situations and having to make split-second decisions.

She urged the public to show understanding and tolerance towards the police, pointing out that the officers have been under a lot of stress over the past nine months.

Now, we have a question: if, like the chief executive said, the law enforcement has been suffering from enormous stress since last June due to escalating street violence, can't we say the same thing about the citizens who have also been subjected to physical and mental trauma during the past nine months?

The controversy surrounding the police conduct can't be wished away, whatever the circumstances.

Unfortunately, the chief executive has continued to reject the idea of establishing an independent inquiry into the all the events that came in the wake of the extradition bill misstep.

And even the much-less-legitimate independent review committee that Lam had promised and a report by the Independent Police Complaints Council, which was due for release in February, are still nowhere to be seen at this point.

Given the situation, the chief executive's latest comments asking for the public to be understanding and tolerant of the police, while deliberately downplaying the police brutality that was caught on camera, will only add fuel to the flames and rub salt in the wounds of citizens. 

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

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal