Confidence in Hong Kong police restored after low of 2014 Occupy protests, retiring assistant chief Steve Hui says
Enhanced community engagement and Facebook page credited for turning image around, after faith in force was shattered by democracy protests four years ago
Hong Kong police have regained public confidence that was shattered by the 79-day Occupy protests and sank a year later to its lowest level since the 1997 handover, the city’s retiring assistant police commissioner said.
Steve Hui Chun-tak pointed to the results of a survey commissioned by the force and conducted by the University of Hong Kong in January and February indicating 79 per cent of 1,029 respondents had confidence in the police, up from 62 per cent in 2015.
“This year’s result is the highest rating in a decade,” said Hui, who became well known in the city during the 2014 Occupy sit-ins for giving televised updates on police operations at 4pm press conferences, earning him the nickname “four o’clock Hui Sir”.
Figures show the 2015 rating for the force was the lowest since the city’s handover in 1997 from British to Chinese rule.
Enhanced engagement efforts by the force and the launch of an official Facebook page to connect police and the local community had boosted goodwill, Hui explained.
“Now there is a very good relationship between police and citizens.”
The 31-year veteran of the force, whose last day on the job is Monday, hoped that “each and every member” would uphold a strong sense of honour and professionalism, their duty to society, and their loyalty to the organisation and its ranks.
Hui also believed that “health, optimism, perseverance and enthusiasm” were instrumental to facing down challenges and overcoming difficulties.
He joined the force in 1986, but has only taken a total of 4½ days of sick leave. Badminton helped keep him healthy and fit, he said.
The 79-day Occupy protests presented the sternest challenge of his career, he recalled, describing the civil disobedience movement across three districts as unprecedented for both police and the public.
“The complexity, scale and duration of the incident was unprecedented.”
The protests began in September 2014, six months after he had been promoted to the post of chief superintendent and soon after he was appointed the head of the force’s public relations branch.
As the force’s designated spokesman, Hui said his most difficult challenge during the Occupy protests was “collecting all related information and giving updates on police efforts to the public through media”.
He recalled feeling unhappy and uncomfortable amid unreasonable and impolite accusations against police during the protests.
During the Occupy sit-ins, the force drew criticism for using tear gas to try to disperse protesters in a decision that sparked international attention.
“My motto of ‘try hard, leave no regrets’ helped me during the long period of hardships and challenges,” Hui said.
Yet he harboured no ill feelings towards people who made fun of his signature catchphrase “I will now recap in English”, which he uttered at his 4pm press conferences during the protests upon concluding his Chinese-language briefings.
“What people think about that has nothing to do with me.”
Describing himself as someone who sees the glass half full, he said: “I am an optimistic and positive person and always look at things from a positive point of view.”
In his career with the force, Hui has been stationed at various police districts and attached to the support, personnel and security sections. He was aide-de-camp to the chief executive from 2007 to 2010, and promoted to assistant commissioner in February 2017.