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Will you friend the Hong Kong police force? Long arm of the law reaches out on Facebook

Platform set up to improve public image of the force is dominated by users urging prosecution of officers who allegedly beat Occupy protester

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 October, 2015, 2:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 October, 2015, 10:17am

The police force launched its Facebook page on Monday in a bid to improve its public image and foster better relations with the community - but it quickly created a platform for critics.

By 1.30am it had garnered more than 23,000 likes. Comments were overwhelmingly critical, mostly from users asking when seven officers caught on camera allegedly beating Occupy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu last year would be prosecuted.

"Where [are] the seven gangster corrupted cops? When [are] you guys gonna put them [to] justice?" one user asked.

"Black police," was another popular remark.

Hong Kong Police's move into social media was exclusively revealed by the Sunday Morning Post on September 27. The force is reeling from a drop in popularity after last year's pro-democracy sit-ins, during which they were accused of using heavy-handed tactics.

【四點鐘新聞】警隊Facebook喺今日(2015年10月5日)正式推出喇,而家就有請大家都好熟悉嘅許sir喺度為大家介紹一下!!警察訊息:...

Posted by Hong Kong Police on Monday, October 5, 2015

"The purpose is to reach out to the community … construct a good image of the force and get across our messages in a timely fashion," said Senior Superintendent Catherine Kwan Chui-ching of the police public relations branch. "Using a soft and interesting approach, we hope to foster better police-community relations."

While the force runs a YouTube channel, this is their first foray onto Hong Kong's most used social media platform. It is run by more than a dozen members, with three monitoring the page, responding to comments and filtering out "unconstructive" remarks.

While the force encouraged comments, Kwan said remarks that were libellous or contained foul language or advertising would be removed. "We will consider the specific contents of messages and their context."

Highlights include a video show called "4pm News Channel" - a play on the 4pm media briefings held during Occupy - that will dish out information and messages on topics of public concern. The page will also promote force events, anti-crime messages and stories of officers.

The force's popular public relations chief, Steve Hui Chun-tak, was featured in the first video lobbying viewers to give the new page a "like".

READ MORE: Hong Kong police 'friend' request: force launches Facebook page to overcome post-Occupy negativity

Professor Michael Chan Che-ming, an expert on political communications at Chinese University, said whether the page would serve its intended purpose depended on the user-generated content and whether it could provide a "real exchange" with the community in the form of "two-way communication".

"Honestly, government bodies and even corporations haven't really been able to grasp the use of social media," he said. "Many fail to harness it well and end up promoting more negativity than positivity."

Andrew Shum Wai-nam of the Civil Rights Observer, which monitors police, felt there were too many things that the force kept in the dark, such as the Ken Tsang case. "It will also only work if police actually respond to comments," he said. "I'm not so positive that they will."