Hong Kong police keep high morale

By Chen Qingqing and Fan Lingzhi in Hong Kong and Yang Sheng in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/18 23:43:39 Last Updated: 2019/8/19 16:21:15

Police confident of dealing with possible terrorism, says chief

Wong Ka-lun, police officer of emergency unit of Kowloon East, sustained the most serious injury in his career as a police officer during a law enforcement operation on August 5 with one teeth being broken by ball bearing shot by rioter with slingshot. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

Dozens of water barriers are set up around a residential building for Hong Kong police officers and their relatives. When a stranger approaches the entrance, two security guards ask him his identity and the purpose of his visit. 

Hong Kong police and their family member are undergoing enormous pressure amid the prolonged riots and the smear campaign launched by the opposition groups.

"We've been on high alert. This is how our life looks like now," said May, the wife of a Hong Kong officer who only wants to be addressed with first name.

Her husband participated in law enforcement operations during the recent violent demonstrations. The couple lives in the building where many of their neighbors are police officers who have been working nonstop in recent weeks. 

May said her daughter was receiving growing number of hateful messages attacking her father. 

One night, the 19-year-old texted her mom

"Can we move to the mainland to live?" she wrote. 

It was heartbreaking, the mother told the Global Times. 

"When I received this text message, I felt so sad that the city has turned into a chaotic place and we, as Hongkongers, are so scared that we're thinking about leaving it," May said. 

For the Hong Kong police force - one of the world's finest - it has been a challenging and struggling time. 

Anti-government protesters hit the streets of different districts, blocked major transport junctions, damaged public properties and attacked police officers, leading Hong Kong into a chaotic and anarchical situation. 

As hundreds and thousands of police officers have been deployed at the frontline against the riots, they have been increasingly attacked by radical protesters with ball bearings, slingshot and molotov cocktail. Moreover, some of their family members have been harassed and intimidated by anonymous phone calls and hateful online messages. 

The personal information of some police officers, including family address, ID number, has been revealed on social networks for anti-government protesters including Telegram and LIHKG.   

"It's been a very tough time for all the police officers in Hong Kong," Tse Chun-chung, chief superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force public relations branch, told the Global Times.

"Some of our colleagues were seriously injured and their privacy has been infringed."

Radical protesters are using guerilla and flash mob-style strategies to attack different places including police stations and to attack ordinary people who hold different opinions, Tse said.

As the violence has escalated, the frontline police must ensure that ordinary people, violent protesters and officers on duty all remained safe. 

"Police used force to respond to violence but in a very restrained manner over the past two months," Tse said. 

"As soon as we achieved the aim of dispersal, we stopped using force."

Stores are shut down on Sunday after black-clad protesters illegally took to the streets in Central Hong Kong and blocked the roads. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT


Police smeared

Since June 9, Hong Kong police have arrested 748 suspects who attacked police in districts including Sham Shui Po, Tai Po, Tin Shui Wai and Kwai Chung. Some 177 police officers were injured. 

Anti-government groups have manipulated the narratives to smear the police by editing photos and footage of officers enforcing social order. Radical protesters claimed the police selectively enforced the law, which has increased mistrust in the public and undermined the rule of law. They have also accused police of using excessive force. 

"We're dealing with a set of circumstances and challenges unseen before in Hong Kong," David J. Jordan, chief superintendent of the Hong Kong police tactical unit, told the Global Times. "The utilization of social media in particular has cast a bad light on the police and is definitely having some impact on the population." 

"A lot of it unfortunately is one photo used to explain a four-hour situation," Jordan said. 

When a police officer in white uniform pointed his gun on July 30 at groups of rioters, Western media depicted him as a brutal officer who would kill bare-handed citizens for no reason. 

But Western media, for example BBC, deliberately ignored three minutes of footage which showed the officer surrounded and attacked by rioters at Kwai Chung before he had to raise the gun to defend himself and the gun was loaded with non-lethal bean bag round.

In an incident when a female protester was shot in the eye near Tsim Sha Tsui during an illegal protest last weekend, without concrete evidence, some media outlets immediately claimed she was hurt by police. However it was revealed later that she was shot by a ball bearing, an item not used by the police but by rioters.  

Some police officers said that they have not been able to go out to eat for weeks while others were seriously worried about irrational attack and retaliation from rioters. 

Jordan said his daughter told him that her sports coach criticized her father for doing something "disgusting."

"In any civil society, I think that is totally unacceptable," Jordan said, referring to his children and wife being targeted by radical protesters.

Confidence, solidarity 

"From a historical perspective, the enforcement of law in Hong Kong is restrained by the legislature, public opinion and supervision," a former senior police officer, who preferred not to be named, told the Global Times. 

When radical protesters vandalized police stations and their dormitories, they threw bricks and eggs at spray-painted walls, which has seriously affected the normal life of residents in the neighborhood.

In spite of growing pressure on the police, officers have reached a consensus that they are the fundamental force to safeguard a society ruled by law. 

"Although we are experiencing a very difficult time, our morale is still high," Tse said. The Hong Kong police force remains capable of enforcing law and order, Tse noted.  

Wong Ka-lun, police officer of emergency unit of Kowloon East, sustained the most serious injury in his career as a police officer during a law enforcement operation on August 5 with one teeth being broken by ball bearing shot by rioter with slingshot. He told reporters that majority of protesters are peaceful, but every time peaceful demonstration ended, rioters would emerge sabotaging public order, assaulting police officers, even ordinary people. 

"We have always been aware of the behavior and motivations of rioters and we understand that terrorism can develop in a very short time," Tse said. The Hong Kong police force have their own counter-terrorism mechanism and will analyze the situation from an intelligence analysis perspective, he noted. "We have a systematic counter-terrorism framework and we are capable of dealing with any possible terrorism."


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