It is said that some local civil servants are not at all happy that members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS) enjoy the right to compensation in the light of the 1997 sovereignty change. The argument goes that when they joined the civil service, locals and expatriates swore allegiance to the crown, so why should it be the case that only HMOCS members are entitled to the cash compensation offered by the British Government? Disgruntled police inspectors have found it unpalatable and in the past few years a handful have repeatedly argued against this unequal treatment. However, no serious action has been taken. But the policemen have not given up - it looks as if the inspectorate rank is heading for a split with a renewed effort by a group of officers vowing to pressurise the Local Inspectors' Association to take up the subject with the administration. Reportedly, more than 200 inspectors have already signed up to form a new committee to press the association for an emergency meeting at the end of the month to discuss their demand for equal treatment with their expatriate colleagues. What the inspectors are seeking is not just cash compensation, totalling as much as $1.5 million per officer, they also want an employment guarantee with a new contract after they receive the compensation and suggest their retirement age be extended from 55 to 57. The association's leadership has yet to state its position on its members' request but surely they must know that this is a hard battle to fight, if it agrees to take up the subject with the administration. Logically, it is difficult to dispute the local inspectors' argument. It is true that regardless of their background, both local and expatriate police officers swore allegiance to the crown when they joined the force, their jobs are the same and they are also exposed to the same risks in carrying out their duties. So why should they be any different from their British colleagues when it comes to the question of a loss of British sovereignty protection? Why should a double standard be allowed here? Perhaps the answer to these questions is the historical origin of the compensation scheme - that the cash entitlement is only available to HMOCS members as a standard arrangement applicable to all colonies when they become independent. It is the colonial flavour that distinguishes between local and expatriate officers. Probably, people fail to see such a distinction because in modern Hong Kong where the concept of a colony has been fading so quickly that inequality is taken as a matter of reality. That said, it does not mean that Hong Kong people, be they in the public or private sectors, should not speak up over unequal treatments. But those pursuing equal treatment on the compensation scheme must realise that politically and practically they are pressing a lost cause and are unlikely to gain popular support. The British Government will definitely refuse such a demand. They were reluctant to even offer cash payments to HMOCS members during the early days of the negotiations with the expatriates, despite the fact the entitlement is a standard arrangement in the process of decolonisation. The local inspectors' dissatisfaction is understandable but with the importance of maintaining law and order in Hong Kong in the run-up to 1997, it is most dangerous for our law-enforcement agency to send a message that its officers are split and not working together. It is the police officers' duty to ensure internal order and stability and if they fail to do so because of a monetary grievance, they will lose the community's support and respect.