Politics has become so muddy in Hong Kong thanks to movements like the pro-democracy Occupy Central campaign that those who run our city and keep its streets orderly and safe could be forgiven for being confused. They are doing what is expected of them, yet at times it must feel like there is nothing but criticism. National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang's support for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, police and other disciplined services at a meeting in Beijing, therefore, comes as a timely boost for morale. Knowing that efforts are appreciated drives resolve to do the best possible job.
Such a meeting is unusual, but so too are Hong Kong's circumstances. Society is politically divided and the Occupy Central movement to pressure the central government for universal suffrage and its rival Silent Majority have deepened the rift. Beijing fears that a protest involving 10,000 or more people in the heart of the business district could be hijacked by troublemakers and turn ugly, bringing chaos to our streets. Although organisers have pledged participants will not resort to violence, the concern is justified given the nature of divisions.
Police find themselves caught in the middle, from time to time accused of abusing powers, showing bias or restricting journalists. A long-held reputation as Asia's finest has been coloured by claims of mismanagement of protests, excessive force against political activists and inaction to complaints. These were brought to the fore in July when democracy-supporting primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze swore at police and retired superintendant Gregory Lau Tat-keung spoke against her at a subsequent rally in Mong Kok. Coupled with a row over pay rises, police are understandably frustrated and morale in their ranks has fallen.
Zhang's supportive words are in the circumstances much-needed. As the highest-ranking mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs and the nation's third-ranking figure, his assurances have meaning. They remind us of the important role Hong Kong's men and women in uniform play in ensuring security, stability and safety. In the heat of protest or political argument, that is too easily forgotten.
In such emotive times, all sides have to show respect and restraint. Police have to keep in mind their motto, "we serve with pride and care", as they go about their duties. Our future should not be about winners and losers, but working together to build an even better Hong Kong.