Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor insists she has not met any law-breaking demonstrators during dialogue sessions and underscores her support of the police. Beijing has also directly urged unwavering support for the HKPF. So much for Carrie’s earlier slightly conciliatory noises about a possible independent inquiry into the cops.
When police unions bullied Matthew Cheung into withdrawing his apology to the public for the (apparently police-condoned) Yuen Long triad attack in July, it seemed pathetic. Some thought local officials feared a mutiny in the law-enforcement ranks. Since then, the police have ramped up their use of force against the Great Cockroach Menace, obscured their badge numbers, pursued protesters within hospitals, apparently taken partial control of the MTR, assumed the right to de-mask and assault journalists, and obtained a sweeping injunction giving them and their families privileged privacy-protection treatment.
Who is in charge of whom?
Given that Beijing officials have essentially sidelined the local administration, it seems clear that this leaves the Liaison Office largely running things. But it also seems likely that Beijing has already built up more influence within some local institutions than we would like to think – certainly in the police.
We see cops sporting Chinese flags on their equipment packs, and shotgun-toting ‘bald sergeant’ Lau Chak-kei has been adopted as a patriotic hero in the Mainland. The HKPF’s top officers and staff associations are regulating government officials’ public statements, demanding the right to use other departments’ staff and vehicles, neglecting routine patrolling and other crime-fighting duties, and creating new legal or quasi-legal powers for themselves.
After what must have been years of CCP infiltration and co-option, the police management and unions have been activated as a United Front tool.
Not all cops would see it this way; many seem more convinced than ever that they are defending society from evil. And not all are on-side with the rapid transformation of a broadly respected public service into a publicly unpopular and oppressive force. Some purging will be in order as the CCP consolidates control later. The rest of the civil service, teachers and others will follow. This is how it goes.