Are the police starting to reap what they have been sowing as groups claiming to support them face off against opponents in Mongkok? This saga started a couple of weeks ago when teacher Alpais Lam saw the pro-communist militants known as the Hong Kong Youth Care Association hassling members of the loopy Falun Gong quasi-Buddhist cult in Mongkok. She remonstrated with the police, who she perceived to be turning a blind eye to the aggressors. (Video here; slightly bemused China Daily commentary on opposition elements’ use of foul language here.)
We would like to think that the police are impartial in these matters, even in the face of tiresome behaviour and insults, but there have been too many reports of small-scale bias, inflexibility and awkwardness directed at anti-establishment protestors in the last few years. It may be because the Police Commissioner himself has conservative and authoritarian leanings, or it could be that the government has encouraged it, perhaps to forestall criticism from Beijing officials about over-indulgence of spoilt Hongkongers’ disloyalty.
At the same time, loud and even obnoxious pro-government and pro-Beijing groups, apparently beyond direct control of the mainstream United Front, are sprouting up, mounting pro-government marches, covering Tsimshatsui in anti-Falun Gong banners, demanding National Education, and so on. They are half-clownish, half-menacing, and may have links with Mainland businesses. The hard core of members are not puppets; they seem to be as personally driven as the most dedicated activists in the pro-democracy camp.
These two trends added together are not a good combination. The more heated this sort of friction on the streets gets, the more important it is that the cops are seen to be as even-handed as possible. Partly because that is their role in a free society. But also for the more practical reason that when it comes to numbers, the pro-dem/opposition/skeptic/dissident/anti-locust/whatever camp will always be able to produce far more protestors than the pro-Beijing mob. The police would be trashing their own integrity if they picked sides.
While the valiant fuzz were trying to maintain order without fear or favour in Kowloon, their emergency services colleagues across the harbour were attending a traffic accident. The tangled wreckage they were pulling apart was an eloquent metaphor for Development Secretary Paul Chan’s political career. (Or should we read something into the fact that it was just a bump?)
Wits wonder whether his vehicular mishap was a suicide attempt. He could be forgiven for wanting to take the easy way out. As minister in charge of housing, he has endured the embarrassment of having a wife who is a slum landlord. Then her family is found to own land that will rocket in value if his plans for new towns go through. And now his Assistant Vice-Deputy Sub-Assistant Henry Ho resigns after failing to declare a family interest in a decrepit-looking chemical factory in the aforementioned area slated for development. Not least, the bid to end it all results in no more than a strained neck – exactly the sort of miserable failure we would expect from the man.
Alternatively, it could be that the Gods of Divine Vengeance, irate at the sight of yet another eight-seat luxury mega-van clogging up the busy streets of Causeway Bay, forced him into the path of a taxi driver without realizing it was in fact Chan at the wheel. We will probably never know.