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  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:03pm

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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This article is now closed to comments

I don't think Superintendent Lau's position is quite as simple as Mr. Rowse makes it out to be. Mr. Lau is a retiring police officer, but he is not yet retired and he is still very much on the police payroll. Therefore, he should not have participated in the rally and, I suspect, may have inadvertently put his pension in jeopardy, hence the fiction of the gathering not being political in nature.
the sun also rises
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 !


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