Incidents show police bias towards pro-establishment groups

Albert Cheng says law and order appears to have taken a serious bashing in Hong Kong as a blind eye is often turned to thuggish activities

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 5:48am

Is the quality of the city's law and order in a downward spiral? Last week, a video showing a woman schoolteacher who stood up for some Falun Gong practitioners in Mong Kok went viral and received an outpouring of support from Hongkongers. It shows that the public is becoming more intolerant of the extraordinary behaviour of the police, who seem to be siding with the pro-establishment force.

If allowed to reach a tipping point, these negative sentiments will cause great damage to social harmony.

The incident took place last month. The schoolteacher, Lam Wai-sze, walked past Sai Yeung Choi Street and saw the Falun Gong group being harassed by a member of the Hong Kong Youth Care Association. The police at the scene reportedly stood by and watched the Falun Gong members being pestered, but when bystanders tried to defend the Falun Gong practitioners and scolded the tormentors, the police formed a human barricade to segregate the opposing sides.

On witnessing this, Lam joined in and scolded the police for their biased behaviour in protecting the tormentors. She subsequently crossed the human barricade and was told off by officers.

In a heated exchange of words, Lam swore at the officers. A pro-establishment local publication taped the incident and posted an edited version online in a bid to present the teacher as the aggressor. As a result, Lam and the primary school where she teaches were forced to make a public apology.

Most surprisingly, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, which is supposed to protect the interests and welfare of teachers, only issued a simple statement on the case.

But it was ridiculous to see the Junior Police Officers' Association and the Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association condemn the teacher, accusing her of inappropriate behaviour.

Since the emergence of the so-called patriotic, caring Hong Kong groups, the city's law and order has taken a bashing. They have been going out of their way to interfere with ordinary peaceful public activities and forums organised by community groups and the pan-democrats.

They act like thugs and appear to be out to cause chaos. The police seem happy to turn a blind eye and prefer to stand on the sidelines.

Over the past year, we have seen these hooligans get off lightly for their criminal behaviour. One of them was fined HK$1,500 for attacking a reporter. In another incident, a group of thugs attacked pro-democracy activists at a public gathering in Mong Kok, causing serious injuries. That case is still pending.

Then, not long ago, some men set fire to thousands of copies of the Apple Daily in Central. So far, only one person has been apprehended.

By contrast, peaceful anti-government gatherings and protests always seem to meet with the biggest counterforce from the police. Despite their orderly manner, pro-democracy protesters are often stopped by police and accused of acting illegally.

Many pro-democracy activists are even threatened with legal action long after the alleged offence. If this is not persecution, what is it?

With these incidents becoming more frequent, it begs the question: has our police force lost its impartiality as well as its ability to safeguard and uphold law and order?

The public anger stirred by the schoolteacher incident is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of public discontent. The government would do well to take note.

In Lam's case, if she had broken the law, the police should have arrested and charged her. Why didn't the police do so? Instead they chose to gang up on her.

More preposterous was that, in a separate incident, another group of pro-China hooligans was seen verbally and physically abusing police but officers appeared restrained and didn't take action to stop them. In that incident, the police associations chose not to issue any public statement of condemnation - a clear sign of double standards.

From the contrast in police action, it's only fair to assume that there is clearly a double standard when it comes to law enforcement. In the case of the teacher, their unfair handling of her was nothing but a shameful act of bullying.

Hong Kong is a city that adheres to the rule of law. It has a reputation for a clean, efficient and professional police force that is highly respected by the community. But since Leung Chun-ying took over as chief executive, these good qualities of the police force seem to be dissipating.

Are we seeing the end of the principle that everyone is equal before the law? Turning a blind eye to criminal and immoral activities will only add fuel to the fire, causing more conflict between the public and the police and further damage social harmony.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.