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Monday, December 09, 2019, 19:56
Hong Kong's blue line deserves credit for defense against violence
By Ian Cowieson
Monday, December 09, 2019, 19:56 By Ian Cowieson

Hong Kong has been rocked by six months of violent protests, originally against proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which have since been withdrawn. As the months have passed, the protests have morphed into a general anti-government and anti-police movement. Some appalling attacks against people from the Chinese mainland, and the frequent targeting of shops and businesses deemed to have mainland connections, also have revealed an ugly and xenophobic anti-mainland side to the movement. While there have been a number of largely peaceful demonstrations, on occasions involving substantial numbers of participants (although far fewer than the numbers claimed by the organizers), many protests have degenerated into violence, with countless attacks against police officers, assaults on citizens holding differing views, and massive damage to property and the city’s infrastructure.

I am confident that the Hong Kong Police Force, supported by this city’s overwhelming majority of decent citizens, will weather this period of turbulence and emerge stronger in due course

It has been my privilege to have been an officer in the Hong Kong Police Force for over 27 years. Coming here after serving for several years as a police officer in London’s Metropolitan Police, I was one of around 700 expatriate officers in the force in the early 1990s. As overseas recruitment stopped in 1994, that figure is now down to only around 40 out of a total of about 31,000 police officers. It has been a truly rewarding experience serving with so many committed and dedicated local officers, intent on maintaining their home city as one of the safest places in the world. The years I have spent here have given me so many opportunities to really get to know and understand Hong Kong, with its unique mix of traditional Chinese culture and Western influences.

Now in its landmark 175th year, the Hong Kong Police Force has been rightly recognized as one of the finest in Asia, and indeed, the world. It has a well-deserved reputation, hard-won over the years, for professionalism, discipline and integrity. These qualities have been demonstrated on numerous occasions over the last six months as the force has been holding the line against the mob violence and frequent rioting that has blighted this great city. Masked thugs wearing their trademark black clothes have orchestrated chaos and violent attacks citywide, doing their best to bring Hong Kong to its knees. The Hong Kong Police Force, as the only effective government agency standing up against this onslaught of violence and destruction, has therefore become a primary target of the black-clad mob and their apologist supporters and has become the subject of vile, baseless and often outlandish smears and outright lies.

The restraint shown by the force has been quite remarkable, despite so many violent attacks and intense provocation. None of us can forget the two incidents in June when our police headquarters was besieged by an ugly mob, and the building was trashed. What other police force in the world would have tolerated such blatant and prolonged provocations? Or the despicable attacks on police married quarters, with hundreds of bricks, metal poles and other projectiles thrown while terrified families, including children and elders, were sheltered inside? Hundreds of officers have been injured, some very seriously, with rioters using gasoline bombs, sharpened pieces of metal, corrosive fluid, and most recently bows and arrows to attack those tasked with upholding law and order. Some of the attacks have been truly shocking. An officer had part of his finger bitten off while subduing a violent protester in Sha Tin on July 14. A police sergeant was viciously stabbed in the neck on Oct 13 by a thug using a cutter, inflicting grievous injuries that require long-term medical care. Other officers have sustained horrific burns after corrosive fluid was thrown at them.

In addition to the violent attacks on my colleagues, thousands of officers have had their personal information abused by supporters of the blackshirt movement, to become the subject of vile online abuse — “doxxing” — that often includes threats and intimidation against not only them but their family members too. This despicable campaign has caused immeasurable stress to many officers, their spouses and children. The relentless tide of false information targeting the force, much of it facilitated by some highly partial media outlets, has also been a disturbing feature of the last six months.

In this period, not one person has died as a direct result of police action, and the force has been doing all it can to keep injuries to a minimum. Only three violent protesters have been shot, all of whom were part of groups attacking vulnerable and exposed officers. Riot-control tactics by necessity involve the use of lawful force, often in chaotic circumstances, and I do not pretend that the actions of the Hong Kong Police Force have been perfect. However, officers have acted in good faith with the sole intent of preventing serious violence and bringing offenders to justice. I have absolutely no doubt that had there been similar outbreaks of rioting in most countries worldwide, including in Europe and North America, deaths would certainly have occurred due to police action. Far-fetched claims of sexual assaults and “unexplained deaths” at the hands of the Hong Kong Police Force have been proved to have not one shred of credibility to them. For example, the nonsensical allegations that people died at the Prince Edward MTR station on the night of Aug 31 when officers responded to violent protesters at the station beggar belief and show the lengths that supporters of the mob will go to in their efforts to smear the force.

I have been involved in many operations in the area of Kowloon where I have worked over the last few months, and it has been heartening to see increasing amounts of support from ordinary members of the public. People giving us a thumbs-up and encouraging shouts of “Add oil!” represent the true and decent voice of Hong Kong, tired of months of chaos and violence on their streets. More and more citizens have assisted us in clearing obstructions placed on roads, determined to restore normal life to this great city. Despite the worst efforts of those engaged in violent, criminal activities, I am confident that the Hong Kong Police Force, supported by this city’s overwhelming majority of decent citizens, will weather this period of turbulence and emerge stronger in due course.

The author is chief inspector of police, Kwun Tong district (administration). 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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