My Take

Our so-called intellectuals should defend the law, not break the law

Blaming police for using excessive force against the rioters in Mong Kok makes a mockery of Hong Kong’s system of justice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

Speaking out to defend the so-called Yellow Umbrella protesters during the height of the unrest in Admiralty and Mong Kok more than a year ago, a University of Hong Kong professor waxed philosophical about the need to break the law in order to defend the rule of law.

The professor no doubt delighted in academic sophistry and intellectual paradoxes. The reality is that when you deliberately break the law and challenge law enforcers like the police in a stable and well-functioning if imperfect society like Hong Kong, you are just helping to erode the rule of law and people’s respect for it.

READ MORE: Former Occupy activist nabbed at Hong Kong airport over alleged involvement in Mong Kok riot as groups slam police probe efforts

We have just witnessed Occupy 2.0 and seen what the rule of law has come to mean to the vicious rioters who injured almost 100 police officers, several seriously.

Many if not most of the rioters are graduates of Occupy Central. Members of localist groups like those from Hong Kong Indigenous, Scholarism and the University of Hong Kong’s student magazine The Undergrad played a key role. The pushing, shoving and cursing of Occupy 1.0 have been upgraded to attacking police with bricks, bottles and any sharp and potentially lethal hard objects.

They exploited an admittedly unwise crackdown on illegal hawkers on the first day of the Lunar New Year, and turned it into the worst riot in recent memory.

The day after, more illegal hawkers showed up and sold their wares with complete impunity as police officers looked on. Government hygiene officers didn’t even bother to show their faces for fear of offering another excuse to would-be rioters to unleash more mayhem. Officers may have managed to put down the Mong Kok riot, but they are now afraid to enforce ordinary anti-hawking laws and city bylaws.

READ MORE: Housing, employment, education problems led Hong Kong youth to ‘resort to violence’, says Regina Ip, as others propose a water cannon for riot control

A Civic Party member, barrister Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, condemned police for using excessive force against the hawkers and protesters.

“Many innocent residents were injured by the police,” he wrote on Facebook. “Police also opened fire illegally ... These things are not acceptable under the rule of law.”

Um, just exactly how many innocent bystanders were harmed by police?

Yeung wouldn’t know the rule of law if it stared him in the face. When thugs beat up police and then their defenders criticise officers for doing their job, that’s how you undermine respect for the law.