Minister puts foot in mouth

At a politically sensitive time, Secretary for Development Michael Wong showed an appalling lack of sensitivity by saying not all police officers are good

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 10:17pm

For someone who had been a deputy security chief and head of the government’s information services department, Michael Wong Wai-lun seemed tone-deaf to the sensitivity of the police force and ignorant of the ABCs of public relations.

The secretary for development caused a furore when he told young people at the annual Hong Kong Book Fair that not all criminals were bad and that not all police officers were good. Taken in context, the statement was perfectly obvious and redundant.

But spoken by someone in his position at a time when police have been having some serious public relations issues with large segments of the community, it was positively inane.

Wong was apparently referring to well-known Japanese mystery novelist Keigo Higashino and was trying to illustrate to young people in the audience the “ambiguities of human nature”.

Police union hits back over minister’s remarks that officers ‘are not always the good guys’

That’s just want we need – a bureaucrat playing psychologist and literary critic. Your mother is female; the Pope is Catholic. We should be seriously worried if his young audience didn’t already know that not all police are good people. I imagine they or someone they knew had clashed with anti-riot police during the Occupy protests of 2014 and who might not have the best impressions of the force.

Suppose Wong had said something similar, but instead targeted different groups, say, some civil servants are corrupt; some doctors don’t have the best interests of their patients at heart; lawyers don’t always tell the truth; judges are sometimes biased; media commentators often don’t know what they are talking about.

All those statements are obviously true and would have been harmless if made by people who are not public figures; but not if you are a powerful senior government official. In that case, the groups you mention would think you are picking on them.

Hong Kong police operations chief plays down furore over minister’s remarks

That’s why the Junior Police Officers’ Association has reacted furiously. Maybe they have been a tad too sensitive. But they are also the ones with the most direct interactions with the public.

Ever since the Occupy protests, police have been having a public image problem, especially with younger people. They have been accused of being politicised, the latest being an ongoing row over an attempt to ban the secessionist Hong Kong National Party.

In these politically sensitive times, a top official came out and said not all police officers were good guys. If I were a junior officer, I would be upset, too.