My Take

Apples and oranges: how historical analogies can backfire

Comparing the plight of Hong Kong’s police force to that of the Jews who suffered during the Holocaust has crossed the line of decency

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 1:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 1:58am

If you want to have a sensible discussion about most things, try to avoid making comparisons, or drawing analogies, with the Nazis, Adolf Hitler or the Holocaust. To do so will immediately kill the conversation; all hell is guaranteed to break loose.

There is even something called Godwin’s law – or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies – to describe this destructive phenomenon.

Unfortunately, that was exactly what happened when a hapless police officer compared the plight of his colleagues to the Nazi persecution of the Jews during a mass gathering by current and retired officers and their families. Understandably, both the Israeli and German consulates felt duty-bound to respond.

Hong Kong police chiefs rush to repair damage over remarks comparing jailed officers to Jews persecuted by Nazis

The officer in question had displayed profound cultural insensitivity and historical ignorance. But there is absolutely no reason to think it was done out of malice or prejudice.

The same cannot be said of a liberal studies teacher. In a commentary run by several news outlets, the teacher indirectly compared participants of the mass gathering in support of seven jailed policemen to Nazi soldiers. This prompted a second response from the German consulate.

Comparing Hong Kong police to the Nazis is arguably even more outlandish, and the teacher could hardly claim ignorance. One wonders whether the same teacher is morally or intellectually fit to teach liberal studies.

But of course, none of these – the malicious teacher, the ignorant police officer – would have mattered, except for the news outlets that published the commentary or reported his speech. While they stayed in the background, their pan-democratic links made their motive pretty transparent: to discredit the police force and its mass gathering last week.



Localists, secessionists and many radical pan-democrats have come to view the police as the enemy, and last week’s mass rally practically as a declaration of war. That’s why they and their media allies are trying to drag out this sorry row for as long as possible.

Let’s leave our German and Israeli friends alone, and drop this sorry saga once and for all.

Hong Kong has many problems. The police force has problems. But none of them will be resolved or elucidated by citing Nazi history.

By all means study it as being essential to the education of every person.

But being educated also means not drawing false analogies or unwarranted lessons from history.