Protesters hold a flash mob rally at Chater Garden in Central on October 2, in support of a Secondary Five student who was shot by a police officer during scuffles following a mass rally the previous day, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Photo: Sam Tsang
by Albert Cheng
by Albert Cheng

Brutal Hong Kong police creating a cycle of violence in protest-torn city

  • Carrie Lam must act to stop the use of excessive force on protesters. Anything else is just a political stunt that angers people, like her community dialogue platform ended up being. Given the police brutality, it is impossible to ask protesters to remain calm and rational
Widespread protests broke out in Hong Kong on the 70th National Day of the People’s Republic of China, after a rally on September 28 to mark the fifth anniversary of the “Umbrella movement” and an anti-authoritarianism march the following day. The protests went ahead, with or without police permission.
Neither protesters nor police are backing down; instead, the violence has escalated. Molotov cocktails were thrown and tear gas and beanbag rounds fired all over the city on October 1. Police fired six real bullets, one of them into a young protester’s chest at point-blank range. The world has been shocked by the terrifying footage.
It is worth noting that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s “ community dialogue” not only failed to calm the chaos, it further irritated the protesters.
The latest poll results from Chinese University’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies show that Lam’s approval rating has reached a new low of 28.2, down 50 per cent compared to last year.
Former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang has expressed his concerns over the conflicts, saying: “[The] freedom of speech, assembly and demonstration are guaranteed under ‘one country, two systems’.” He also said the rule of law must be upheld and that violence cannot solve any conflicts and must be strongly condemned.

However, Lam has completely mishandled the situation, ignored public opinion and condoned police brutality. The rule of law has been completely devastated by her government, especially the police.

Hong Kong is now stuck in an anomalous situation. People are pushed to protest on the streets because the government refuses to fulfil their five demands. Given the ongoing police brutality, it is impossible to ask protesters to remain calm and rational. Hong Kong’s public opinion could not be any clearer: “ five demands, not one less”.
Police fire tear gas over protesters at the junction of Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road in Admiralty on June 12. Police action on the day sparked the first calls for an independent inquiry, which have progressively grown louder. Photo: Sam Tsang
As for the independent inquiry into police action, urged also by members of the pro-establishment camp, Lam has decided to stand her ground. In the absence of any intent to reconcile with the people, the so-called “community dialogue” is doomed to stir up more public anger.
Police are now shooting protesters. Their actions are fuelling the anger of the crowds. It is not for nothing that the police are now commonly referred to as “ black cops” (corrupt police). They have earned that reputation with their use of excessive force. It is no surprise that more people are accepting and supporting the radical protesters.
Hong Kong people have always respected the law. In the 1967 riots, the majority eventually supported the British government to stop the riots and restore public order. Since the handover, Hong Kong people have experienced many protests, including the Umbrella movement five years ago. Most Hongkongers adhered to the principle of being peaceful, rational and non-violent. Many were against any violent acts.
However, since one million people marched peacefully in June, the attitude of the majority has changed drastically. Not only have they stopped opposing the violent protest, amid the government’s stubbornness and police brutality, more people are endorsing the protesters’ actions. Some are even joining the radical protesters. The cause of the current chaos is the lawbreaking police.

First, it is obvious that the police have abandoned political neutrality when performing their duties. They openly punch and kick protesters who have been subdued and are unable to resist. They cover their police identifications and wear masks on duty. Lam repeatedly states that the Independent Police Complaints Council will investigate any illegitimate behaviour. But, ironically, the people can’t file any complaints without officers’ ID numbers.

Second, undercover police are mixing with the crowds, giving rise to suspicions that they are leading protesters to violent action, so that the Special Tactical Squad and riot police can crack down on them.

Police deny misconduct accusations, including arson and grinning officers

Third, the police are unfairly executing law enforcement. Even after suspected triad gangsters attacked commuters and returning protesters at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, the police did not make any arrests at the scene, and even then on light charges. Two were later charged with rioting.
On the other hand, more than 2,000 protesters have been arrested so far. Many of them face charges of rioting and attacking police. There is a significant difference in handling protesters and government supporters. It is ridiculous for recalled Deputy Commissioner Alan Lau Yip-shing to support police brutality and assert that the “black cop” allegation is the greatest lie of all.
If Lam sincerely wants to fix the mess she created, she first needs to stop the police brutality and reform the entire enforcement unit. And, most importantly, prosecute officers who have abused their power and violated the code of conduct. Otherwise, everything is just a political stunt – the violent conflicts will continue to intensify and the legacy of Hong Kong will come to an end.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. [email protected]