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  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 8:49am

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.

NewsHong Kong
PROTEST: ANALYSIS

Viral video sparks political row dividing Hong Kong

A teacher’s abuse of police handling of a protest that went viral on the internet has incensed political rivals and stoked social tensions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 8:59am
 

Poll

  • The police: 78%
  • Teacher Lam Wai-sze: 7%
  • Pro-police protesters: 9%
  • Radical pan-democrats: 4%
  • Others (please comment): 1%
6 Aug 2013
  • The police
  • Teacher Lam Wai-sze
  • Pro-police protesters
  • Radical pan-democrats
  • Others (please comment)
Total number of votes recorded: 2,928

As the Chinese saying goes, a single spark can start a prairie fire.

What began as a row between a primary school teacher and a few policemen at the way officers were handling a dispute has escalated into a political movement that has sharply divided the city.

Nearly 3,000 people with opposing views took to the street on Sunday to express their anger. The half-day stand-off degenerated into a brawl at one point.

Some analysts warn that social tensions are running so high that any incident, if not handled properly, could trigger a political firestorm. Others fear free speech may be under threat.

It all started with a five-minute-34 second video clip that went viral. It shows Alpais Lam Wai-sze, a teacher at Pui Ling School of the Precious Blood in Fanling, losing her temper and shouting abuse at police handling a dispute in the pedestrian-only zone in Mong Kok.

Despite officers' efforts to calm her, Lam - who with her husband had trespassed onto a cordoned-off police area - jabbed her finger at a policewoman and shouted abusive language at her. She also abused other officers and used foul language.

Lam, whose father is a member of the radical League of Social Democrats, has declined to apologise to the police, although she has said sorry to her school, pupils and parents.

The July 14 incident was largely unknown to the public until eight days later when a video clip was posted on YouTube. Lam's identity was quickly revealed.

On July 26, her school apologised and admitted her act was improper. In the following days, police unions and civil servants' groups also condemned her.

Then a longer version of the video was posted, showing that the officers being abused were handling a dispute between rival groups - the Youth Care Association and the Falun Gong - over their use of space to hold a rally.

Youth Care is widely regarded as a pro-Beijing group, while Falun Gong is outlawed on the mainland but tolerated in Hong Kong. In the longer video Lam is seen accusing police of not handling the dispute fairly.

Now the saga has taken on a new dimension, turning into a confrontation between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps.

Lam's supporters, including some pan-democrats, praised the teacher for her bravery, while her critics said she set a bad example for young people.

Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the focus should have been on whether the police had abused their power in handling the dispute.

"Some groups are overlooking the focus of the debate and keep on pursuing endlessly and irrationally the manner of an individual," said Lau, "The argument is empty. But it can easily … lead the public away from real, rational debate."

Lau warned that further confrontations could occur unless the government can balance the interests of rival sides.

Dr Cheung Chor-yung of City University's department of public policy said: "Free speech in Hong Kong seems at risk. The present situation seems to be that if you do not agree with me, you will be regarded as my enemy."

Dr Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University was pessimistic about any short term solutions. "The incident has in a sense been hijacked and has become a fight between the pro-government and pro-democracy camps. Either side would make the most of the dispute."

 

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10

This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
our society is now divided
into two halves:
pro-establishment and pro-china
and pro-democracy
miss lam is a member
of LSD led by Long Hair
so does her dad
her hatred against Youth Care Assn.
which used to bully Falun Gong
in the territory in
recent years
but our cops have been
accused of showing bias
towards these trouble-makers
which bully those organisations
said to be against the North !
this time the bullying suffered
by Falun Gong was seen
by courageous miss lam
on July 14th in mongkok
she was angered by
the way the cops tackle
the incident---aiding the Youth
Care Assn.to block freedom
of speech of the Falun Gong
a heated argument thus
followed suit and finally
there was the now-known
words, 'what thee fxxk !'
outburst of temper of a
gentle and excellent
primary female teacher
whose school and herself
are now under heavy
pressure to say sorry
to the cops and maybe
a resignation of our
heroin who dared to
challenge the mishandling
of case of our cops !
Camel
Well, insulting police officers will be punished everywhere. In her case she would be put in prison for some weeks in Europe as she repeated her insult several times in intensified the words on purpose. I do not know what drove her to do such thing as she is a teacher teaching small kids. Surely it wasn't common sense.
yellow_lynx_cat
This video at YouTube documented the entire incident where the Youth Care Association was shown trying to infringe Falun Gong's freedom of expression with violence in broad daylight, and the Police didn't stop them nor separate them from Falun Gong. Instead they forced the two rival groups to stay inside a Police cordon line which would only escalate the conflict: ****www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCQDQFXFWNo
yellow_lynx_cat
I don't know why the heck did SCMP not show the video of the full incident where the Youth Care Association thugs were shown to be the one that caused troubles and acted violently in the first place. This paper's stance is totally one-sided!!!!
Camel
the article is talking about the teacher Ms Lam and not the sect nor does SCMP promote anything about the sect.
Dai Muff
The article is talking about the "political row". And the mainland-backed Youth Care Association attempting to trample on freedom of religion here is a more important part of that political row than a few cuss words. I think Falun Gong is a nutty religion. But so are most of the others. The freedom is part of our society.
m2leung
First, I do not understand how Miss Lam's incident threatens our right of free speech. I think everyone is allowed to curse in public. Miss Lam was not only allowed to curse in public, she was able abuse several officers directly and ignored the instructions of the police. Let's not judge whether she is right or wrong - but she was not arrested and she was able to excercise whatever right of speech she felt she was entitled to.
Regarding the incident in MK, why are Miss Lam's supporters claiming to fight for free speech when their action is to upstage and prevent another groups' right of speech and assembly?
Dai Muff
Of course the bit you are forgetting is that the "anti-cult" Youth Care Association is actually the basic culprit fighting free speech as they have been trying to silence the Falun Gong, in a society with freedom of religion, for months now. And our Hong Kong police are weirdly protecting them in their efforts.
m2leung
The YCA cannot take away anybody's free speech (unless you are naive to truly believe the CCP controls them in the background, in which case I can also suggest all pro democracy movements such as Scholarism is driven by the lawyers in the Civic Party who have too much time on their hands). They had the very same right to gather and display their message on July 14.
The sensitivity of our pro democracy supporters boggle my mind...
nmp_inc
The political affiliation of Lam's father seems totally irrelevant to this article as it is written unless the point of the author and/or SCMP was to make some inference. No corresponding references are made to the pro-Beijing political parties who have a nexus to these 'pro-regime' groups. Not a particularly objective or balanced handling of this in the story.
The article also fails to discuss the fact that the conflicts by these pro-regimes groups which have targeted the Falun Gong have been going on for nearly a year. Moreover, hat the police have come under widespread criticism for their failure to protect the Falun Gong from groups like the Voice of Loving Hong Kong and others.
Interesting framing that the Falun Gong are 'tolerated' in Hong Kong when in fact they are not simply tolerated but are legal.
The incident has not been hijacked but is indicative of the politically divided society that Hong Kong is today. It is also an example of 'mainland politics' in Hong Kong.
 
 
 
 
 

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