I’m angry at the persistent, gratuitous violence by the police now in Hong Kong against people on the street.
And I’ll tell you who I’m angry at…
I’m angry at YOU!
For tacitly accepting it as a consequence of people protesting for their rights. Persistent protest is not the cause of an up-spiral of violence by the police. There is no logical connection between the two.
CY has now given the HK Police Force a free-reign to intimidate protesters with violence, and the protesters will continue to take it. But the only thing that will stop it is if enough people can be bothered to speak up in consternation. This goes far beyond, keeping roads clear for traffic, This is the police using violent arrests and intimidation as their first response to political expression.
Societies where police forces use violence readily are invariably more violent too. Violence begets violence. It doesn’t prevent it.
Hong Kong has remained a peaceful, crime free city for generations largely due to the mutual respect between citizens and police to be proportional and understanding with each other. The up tick in violence is not a result of the civil disobedience movement, but instead a conscious decision by the government to counter its political enemies with violence. If society let’s this happen now, it wont be long before the Government deals with all its enemies in such a way, whether they be political or economic. Then this fight will no longer be remote to YOU.
Your apathy to this is creating a new police force in HK modelled on the People’s Armed Police (PAP). In China The PAP are the people who keep social control in the government’s favour. They hit first, ask questions later. Their violence is not a product of an antagonistic general public, but a reflection of the government’s contempt for the people and the violent world they inhabit.
I’m not anti-police and I’m certainly not a peace loving hippy. I grew up wanting to join the military right throughout my teens. I was in the cadet force and then joined the military reserves for two years. I have stood on guard duty for hours on military bases at a time when the IRA was walking up to soldiers in uniform and executing them on train station platforms. So, wearing a uniform and knowing someone wants to harm you is not an alien idea for me. I get it. I get that when you’re in uniform, you fight for the person next to you and not necessarily for the politics of the moment.
This you leave to politicians.
The fact that when you’re in uniform you can be allowed to check out from the morality of the situation for the politicians to deal with is acceptable if, and it’s a big if, you maintain discipline. If you break the discipline then you’re effectively just a gang of goons terrorising the public using weapons they bought.
Through the will of the people, politicians allow police or soldiers to use force on their behalf to maintain order and protect society. However, this is NOT a licence to dispense extra judicious justice or exact revenge or political vengeance on a certain section of society. What’s key here is discipline.
In the case of the HK Police Force, the thing that has everyone riled up is their complete lack of discipline. We’re not talking about the kind of discipline to obey orders and maintain the bonds that hold the Force together. The discipline we’re talking about is when they engage with the public and dispense violence indiscriminately and without much provocation. In this light, people see the police as persistently acting extra judiciously and with vengeance and this is what makes people angry.
HK is in the throws of a very sophisticated civil disobedience movement. Polls show that the people taking part in the Movement are highly intelligent and contributing members of society. They understand that blocking roads is both illegal and wrong. They understand that there are legal consequences to such actions and they are prepared to be judged in a court and sentenced fairly.
None of the protest areas are ever in chaos. There is no rioting. Even at the height of the people’s actions, protesters maintain an order that ensures everyone’s safety. Even the police’s safety. Those who try to throw empty plastic bottles at the police are quickly dealt with by the crowds in a peaceful manner. Even on the very few occasions that the crowd have pushed on the police cordons, the crowd only ever push. They never engage in any form of combat with the police. The Movement is non violent, but it certainly isn’t passive or submissive. If police are separated, as they often are, the crowd jeers at them but let’s them return to their ranks untouched. There hasn’t been a single case of a police officer being assaulted outside of an arrest instigated by the police. The crowd maintains the highest amount of discipline given the circumstances. Anyone who remotely feels like this is not so should visit a frontline and they will quickly see where the danger lies.
The danger lies with the police.
Wherever the protesters come up close to the police, the police line is volatile, erratic and unpredictable. No one is safe. Even other police officers receive blind beatings from their colleagues once the blue line attacks the crowds.
I have so many examples of the police just losing control it would become boring if I listed them all out, but here’s the slightest of all examples, which highlights better just how volatile the police are.
I was in Mongkok, and was on the edge of the curb, taking photographs up at the main crowd of protesters who were in a face-off with the police about 15metres away. The road had been taped-off by police, so the tape was across my stomach. I knew that if I even stepped onto the road it would be met with a very violent police response. To my right, on the pavement was a traffic cone. A policeman had been asked to section off the road and was spacing out cones. He came towards me to get the cone that was at my side. The cone was actually taller than the police tape, so instinctively I lifted up the police tape a few inches so he could pull the cone onto the road more easily. The policeman flipped at me and the tension around us went from 0-10 in a flash. I think the only thing that stopped the police not taking me out was that I was a westerner. If I’d have been Chinese I would have been violently arrested. Something as incongruous as lifting the police tape 2 inches to facilitate his work quickly escalated into an aggressive response from all the police in the area. I found a picture of the police biker who flipped on Passion Times, photo below.
For me, this is indicative of the state of mind of the police, everything they see is an attack upon them. I get that they’re stressed and over worked, but as they like to remind people on the street, they’re getting paid to do this. So if they are, maintain some discipline! Get some proportionality! It’s a job, and you are expected to maintain a high standard, regardless of what’s going on around you. Just because the people around you are behaving badly, it doesn’t give you free licence too, because you’re getting paid. How many people in McDonalds do you think want to smack a burger in your smug face after doing their fourth double shift of the week for minimum wage?
Instead of maintaining even a modicum of decorum, the police consistently rise to even the slightest provocation like school children in a school yard. Protesters jeer at police, police get angry and do the crazy finger pointing face. Protesters jeer more. Police anger levels reach boiling point and they eventually wreak revenge upon a poor individual in the crowd who they feel has too much jib, Protesters jeer more. Police get angrier until finally a Red Flag goes up and police plough into crowds, skitlting everyone. Crowds regroup and jeer at police. Then the whole process starts again, only the police are almost bursting to attack the crowds again. That’s pretty much how every major incident happens. Almost without fail every situation I’ve ever been near could be easily diffused by some confident, assertive policing by senior officers. Unfortunately the senior officers are invariably more wound-up than the boys in blue and so the situation constantly nose dives.
Watching the police being riled up time and time again creates curious emotions in me. The first thing is that I feel they are utterly undisciplined. They stand on guard with their dirty, unpolished boots, the first sign of a uniform force in disarray, and trade insults to protestors across barricades spanning quite big distances. The ring leaders are usually the white shirted officers or the plain clothed, anti-triad police. There is no onus on a crowd to not heckle the police. In fact, why shouldn’t they heckle the police? Heckling is a form on minimum force by protesters to put over their message to an unresponsive government. It’s neither a provocation or a violent act. It’s political theatre. But the HK Police Force see it as a personal attack upon them. Every chant of Black Police cuts them to the quick and you can literally see the anger rise in them. The police seem either ill equipped or incapable of extracting themselves from the situation personally and are completely incapable of seeing that they are locked in a political drama that is high on theatrics but low on actual violence.
Even though the police face no credible threat of real violence, they hold on to every comment so that by the time they are ordered to attack, their aggression levels are so high they blunder madly into the crowd swinging blindly at anyone that gets in the way. Their charges are never clearances and more akin to blind fury and wrath. I would be willing to wager that a great deal of the police injuries are actually shoulder injuries from swinging the batons so hard and fast without any warm up.
Would love to see the figures of how many police have shoulder injuries.
On top of the undisciplined regulars, I believe there’s another dynamic going on involving the anti-triad police. Obviously, these guys have spent many years immersed in triad culture and they’ve probably been witness to some incredibly violent scenes between rival gangs. But as police, they have been tasked with the role of peacemaker, diffusing extremely angry and viscous people. However, with the democracy protesters it is like the triad police have formed into their own quasi- triad gang and are now acting out all the things they’ve seen real triads do in the past. Crazy gesticulating, finger pointing, eye-popping, strained necks and mob violence are all the things that we would associate with a triad group about to fight in a bar, but these are now the everyday actions of the anti-triad police towards the protesters. I’m would wager all the money in the world that the triad-police would NEVER arrest a triad like they arrest a pro-democracy protesters on the street. It would create a war. Yet the triad police now wreak a level of violence on the students and HK citizens that would never be tolerated within triad culture. It is beyond shameful the police are manifesting all the violence they have witnessed over the years on people who do not fight back. It’s despicable and cowardly and fills me with disgust.
YOU should also be concerned about this. Just as the generation of young people have awoken politically, so this generation of police are awaking violently.
As I said at the start, every society where the police dispense violence willingly at the first instance inevitably slides into more violence. Violent police do not make peaceful, civil societies. Even if you have no intention to protest for more democracy, if you stand by and let the police get away with their violence now, then it wont be long before that aggression begins to permeate into all other parts of HK life.
This is not the protesters fault, in the same sense as it is not the girl’s fault she was attacked if she wears a short skirt. As a citizen we have to stand-up and call-out excessive violence, whether it comes from the State or citizens. Hong Kong is changing and YOU can’t hide in apathy.
This is from my blog here.