Cause for shame

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 March, 1996, 12:00am

A Hong Kong man has been awarded record damages against two British policemen who beat him and called him a 'Chink'. But London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, has decided to appeal against the size of the award and will not suspend the men from duty. How this serves the interests of justice is anybody's guess.

Britain has bequeathed Hong Kong some fine institutions, among them an impartial judiciary and a police force which, while not always perfect, certainly bears comparison with others in the region. What a pity, then, that Britain's own institutions have recently left so much to be desired.

The British Government appears ready to put public health at risk to protect the beef and animal feed industries; the monarchy forfeits public respect by washing its dirty linen in public; and now the police are caught condoning racism among their own ranks and victimising minorities.

The court hearing in London left no doubt about the gravity of the position. Kenneth Hsu was punched, kicked in the kidneys and taunted for being Chinese - all because he would not open the door for police who did not have a search warrant. Even if there had been provocation, it would not have justified the violence or insults.

Britain has never been free of racism. But until now it has remained a society where the police were expected to behave impartially, and treat immigrant communities with exactly the same respect as natives. The Commissioner should now step in, explain exactly the standards to which he expects his men to conform, and then lead from the front by suspending from duty any one who breaks the rules.

It is not only in Britain that the image of his force has been damaged by this incident - but also in Hong Kong and everywhere British colonial government once held sway. The Commissioner must work hard now to mend relations with minority communities.