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Alpais Lam Wai-sze

Alpais Lam Wai-sze, a teacher at Pui Ling School of the Precious Blood in Fanling, sparked a protest in Mong Kok on August 4, 2013, after a viral video from July 14 showed her shouting profanity at police officers. In the clip, Lam was seen openly criticising the way the police were handling a confrontation between the Falun Gong and the Youth Care Association. Lam has taught for 18 years and won the Chief Executive's Award for Teaching Excellence in the 2010/2011 academic year.

CommentInsight & Opinion

The curious incident of the foul-mouthed teacher

Mike Rowse tries to understand how a street quarrel became a major political row in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 3:08am

For the past two weeks, I have been trying to wrap my brain around the incident where a young female primary school teacher swore like a trooper at police officers. But all I have to show for my efforts so far is a headache. There are just too many loose ends.

Apparently, it all started with the Falun Gong undertaking one of their regular propaganda exercises. Now, I lost all sympathy for this organisation some years ago when I learned that the founder, Li Hongzhi, believes in apartheid.

In his writings (which most of his followers never read), he argues that there is a separate room in heaven for each ethnic group. Therefore, he does not support interracial marriage as there would be nowhere for the souls of the children to go when they die.

As a father of four Eurasian children, and having several mixed-race grandchildren, I take exception to nonsense like this.

Nonetheless, Falun Gong is a lawful organisation in Hong Kong and its members have the right to peddle their views, however batty.

The trouble apparently began when a different organisation - the Hong Kong Youth Care Association - conducted a demonstration of its own in the same place to block the Falun Gong.

The website of this organisation (now apparently inaccessible) said it is dedicated to youth causes. Nothing there about wider political objectives, so why was the association running a spoiling operation? Is there, perhaps, a second Youth Care Association somewhere with this agenda?

Be that as it may, along comes the teacher, Alpais Lam Wai-sze, who sees the competing demonstrations and forms the opinion that the police are not affording sufficient protection to the Falun Gong. Rather, by inaction, they are permitting the association to bully them. Does Lam film the incident and file a report to the Complaints Against Police Office, her legislative councillor and the media? She does not. Instead, she screams like a banshee and scolds the officers on duty, including choice references to different parts of the human anatomy.

The whole scene is captured on film by someone else and uploaded to the web.

Enraged by the insults to Asia's finest, someone organises another demonstration to show support for the police. Fair enough, but which organisation was it and did it have a permit?

A retiring police officer, Gregory Lau Tat-keung, no longer exercising constabulary powers because his warrant card had been returned, addressed the crowd. Was he entitled to do so?

While we are still mulling answers to these questions, along comes a different organisation to run a counter demonstration, in support of Lam's right to call the police whatever she wants in the name of free speech. The two parties scuffle.

Meanwhile, Lam apologises - to her school, the parents, the children, the public - to everyone in fact except the police she had insulted.

Complaints pour in from all sides. Some are about Lam but by far the majority are about pensioner Lau.

To maintain the force's reputation for impartiality (or its role as a punch bag?), he should have refrained from participating in a political event, they said.

The answer to these challenges should have been perfectly simple. Lau is no longer a serving police officer and he has the same civic rights as any other citizen. Obviously, that would have been too easy, so instead the police headquarters issued a statement which defied all logic by claiming that the demonstration was not a political activity.

Before you can find the appropriate reference to Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, this extraordinary statement is backed up by no less than the chief secretary and the chief executive.

What lessons should we draw from all these events? Most people still respect our police and support them, but expect them to be impartial, and that includes protecting the right of unpopular organisations to propagate their views unimpeded.

Most teachers understand that they are professionals who hold a special position in society because they have a unique role in shaping the next generation, and the community expects them to behave accordingly.

Someone needs to explain to Lam that apologies should be directed to the people she has maligned, not just those in a position to question her own position.

And will somebody please get a grip on government public relations.

Meanwhile, no apple for this teacher, just a bottle of mouthwash.

Mike Rowse is managing director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. mike@rowse.com.hk


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hard times !
Mike Rowse should be highly praised for his impartial words on Ms Lam's Incident !
In his article, he didn't side with any sectors. Instead, he pointed out that the bullied Falun Gong is a lawful organistation and should be allowed to peddle their views here in Hong Kong ! They have the right for the protection of our cops too.The mysterious organisation:Youth Care Association should be dealt with by our Police Force for their role of bullying /harassing the Falun Gong since the latter has the right to enjoy freedom of expression in the territory ! Mr.Lau Tat-keung could deliver his speech at the rally on Aug.4th as his pass had been handed back to the Force which issued a statement claiming the rally was not a political one.But actually, it was ! Besides,Ms Lam should be advised to apologize to the people she had insulted with foul words and not just apologies towards her school and her students only ! She needs to behave herself decently in public places and avoid from using foul words but formally filmed the scene (which she was furious at on Aug.4th in Mong Kok) and complained to the Complaints Against Police Office, her legislative councillor and media instead of hurling curses/abusive languages at cops on duty there ! Well said, Mr.Mike Rowse ! Your article is, by far, the most objective and constructive one regarding to Ms Lam's Incident which has disturbed our town for over a month !
I may be simple-minded, but politics aside, the teacher behaved in a most disgusting way, and should apologize to the people she abused. Had that been done, the incident would not have snowballed the way it did. Her objections to the way the police worked could be taken up properly with the police authority, not the ones out on the streets carrying out their orders. Doesn't anybody care that the police are human too, and can be hurt and offended by the unwarranted and very offensive abuse and behavior? Now what are the police to do in future? Resign? Question every order they are given? Discuss with their superiors the validity of all their actions and object to some of the instructions? Answer back in obscenities? Freedom of speech should be given to them too. If the role-model teacher can swear like a banshee, a retiring police officer should have a say in his personal capacity without being crucified. Be fair.
Well done, alot of points which our society ought to decide on - especially in regard to off-duty private time and retirement activities. In my opinion, only members of religious bodies - such as nuns, needs proper code of behaviour at all times during their stay on earth! The rest of us are mere humans, who cannot be asked to behave in a "correct" manner all the time.
J. Xiong
Mike, To loose sympathy for a victim group just because you don’t understand or agree with their teachings is abhorrent and you should be ashamed of yourself. More seriously, comments like yours aid in the persecution of the victim.
Just by doing some research you find that there are many Falun Gong practitioners who are married to spouses of different races.
When writers ignorantly speak of a spiritual discipline they know nothing about based on negative hearsay or their own interpretations, they in turn spread indifference against the victim group and marginalize them in the eyes of the reader, therefore aiding in the persecution.
Every genocide in history has used hatred and bigotry to create controversy and a public indifference toward the victim. This has affected the people of Hong Kong and has allowed a regime to continue its crimes unabated.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. For over 10 years all around the world millions of Falun Gong practitioners have PEACEFULLY stood up to stop the documented grizzly persecution of their members in China. They have never resorted to violence and have never retaliated in any way.
Falun Gong’s time tested peaceful efforts to expose the Chinese regime’s crimes has won my support. Their actions should be the litmus test, not the irresponsible interpretation of their teachings.
You are not very wise to be taken in by Falun Gong. Why aren't other exercise groups of taichi or qigong been targeted? The Falun Gong is not an exercise group as they pretend to be. They are a political group concerned with annoying China authorities, and do so in all countries of the world. All this is directed by remote control by the leader who lives in safety in a foreign country. And he believes in aliens! If they are a genuinely peaceful body, why don't they just concentrate on 'exercises'?
Fact is that you for yourself don't understand his teaching as well. Just try to read his stupid first book full of discriminations and idiocies.
Um it's a fact that Falun Gong does not tolerate interracial marriage. It's pretty ugly, but this is in their teachings. Regardless, I support their free speech as well as the free speech of the teacher, because this is a core value of HK.
Free speech then also to the retiring police officer!


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