Police bridge gap with minorities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2011, 12:00am


The police force is expanding a programme that reaches out to minority ethnic communities in an attempt to reduce tensions and raise the cultural sensitivity of its officers.

Thirteen new community liaison assistants will be hired, replacing the existing five, whose contracts expire at the end of next month.

The programme was launched in five police districts in response to a 2009 incident in which an officer shot and killed Nepali street sleeper Dil Bahadur Limbu.

A 76-day inquest found that Limbu was lawfully killed. But the tragedy gave rise to widespread public awareness and concern about how police handled cases involving ethnic minorities.

'The ethnic minorities demanded that we learn more about them and, at the same time, we also think we should improve our understanding of them. Also, members from some district fight crime committees expressed concerns about non-Chinese people engaging in crimes,' said Superintendent Joseph Tung Wai-cheung of the police public relations branch, who heads the project.

With such concerns on both sides of the ethnic divide, Tung said the liaison assistants were a useful bridge between police and minorities, especially because the force had so few non-Chinese officers.

Heina Rizwan Mohammad, 21, a Pakistani who is a community liaison assistant in Yuen Long, has given eight talks to officers about the languages, cultures and taboos of various ethnic groups.

'For example, some Indian men wear turbans. Some police officers thought this was due to fashion, but in fact they do so out of religious reasons,' she said.

Mohammad organised activities and sport events for young people from the local and minority communities in the district. She was happy to see teenagers become more aware and disciplined through these activities and discovered a Pakistani boy who aspired to become a policeman.

Community liaison assistant Tak Bahadur Thapa, 26, a Nepali, has given road safety seminars and distributed crime prevention information to ethnic groups in Yau Tsim district, including those living in Chungking Mansions.

The assistants maintain close contact with non-Chinese community leaders and relay their opinions to the force.

Mohammad's grandfather was a policeman in Hong Kong, and Thapa's father was in the colonial army. Both liaison assistants hope to join the force and said their work helps them understand its culture.

Police are preparing to offer non-civil servant contracts to 10 full-time liaison assistants and three part-timers. Eight police districts will be added to the scheme: Eastern, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Shau Mau Ping, Wong Tai Sin, Tsuen Wan, Lantau and Tuen Mun. The original districts are Wan Chai, Yau Tsim, Kowloon City, Kwai Tsing and Yuen Long.

Tung said the force would review the scheme again after a year to see if it should expand to other districts.

Secondary Five graduates who can speak and write either Chinese or English effectively and know at least one minority language - including Urdu, Punjabi, Nepali, Thai and Hindi - can apply for the jobs, which pay HK$9,361 a month - HK$55 and hour. Applications close on Thursday.