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Hong Kong police

Showing the real value of our police

The story of how a police mole infiltrated a triad for 11 months, resulting in the arrests of nearly 300 gangsters, is an example of law enforcement at its best and a tonic for police morale

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 1:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 6:04pm

The reputation of the Hong Kong police force is founded in keeping our streets and neighbourhoods safe. On that count it does not need defending. But when simmering civil political conflict spills into the streets, police tend to be caught in the middle. Rightly or wrongly they can feel victimised for following orders.

The high moral ground is under challenge. Police morale is at stake. The unprecedented civil disobedience of the Occupy Central protest in 2014 is a case in point. The jailing of officers earlier this year over an assault on an activist, now subject to appeals, was a flashpoint for sagging morale. It sparked a rally by about 33,000 serving and retired officers. It also brought to a head concern over changing perceptions of the police, especially among the young.

There were calls for a public campaign that showcased the role of the police in fighting crime and keeping our streets safe. The battle with triads for control of our streets is an example. It can involve dangerous undercover work.

Hong Kong district councillor among 299 arrested after officer’s undercover triad investigation

Members of the public usually do not get to hear too much about it for security reasons. But police chiefs have made an exception of a “sting” worthy of a crime novel or film script. Indeed, the story of how a police mole infiltrated a triad gang for 11 months, until the force pounced with nearly 300 arrests, could form the basis of either. A public relations offensive could not have done a better job of shoring up police morale and underlining the force’s real value to society.

A graduate of the police college in his 20s is said to have assumed the identity of a hooligan to go deep undercover and earn the trust of triad leaders. The stress of the assignment, during which his nerves were tested with talk of the fate of undercover police officers, caused him to lose so much weight that he was almost unrecognisable to fellow officers afterwards, and the danger remains such that he is now allowed to carry a pistol to guard against revenge. The successful operation is a long way from politics and protest, but it is in keeping with the epithet “Asia’s finest” sometimes attributed to the force. It is a reminder that respect for the rule of law and clean and fearless law enforcement are fundamental to our freedoms and rights.