New law and order columnist Bill Majcher, a former senior police officer, takes a stand for the police caught in the democratic crossfire.
While serving for over 22 years as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), I had the opportunity to observe the best and worst of what is supposedly a civil democratic society in Canada. Living in Greater Vancouver from 1985 thru 2007, I witnessed firsthand the great flood of Hong Kong citizens migrating to Canada as a result of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. In 2007, I reversed the migration flow and moved to Hong Kong where I have resided ever since. Almost universally, the stated reason for entire families relocating to Canada is for the free and open society that a democratic Canada represents. Canada is held out by many Hong Kong emigrants as a just nation with a robust rule of law, which includes an independent judiciary and a nation where free speech and freedom of assembly is enshrined in the political and legislative fabric of the country. Canadian police are viewed as public servants and are in no way, shape, or form an instrument of an oppressive government to be used against its citizens akin to a police state.
In the years I have lived in Hong Kong, and indeed since 1994 when I first commenced visiting Hong Kong, I have made observations of the interplay between Hong Kong citizens, Hong Kong Government and the Hong Kong Police. Disappointedly, I see many similarities in the methods by which the police in both Hong Kong and Canada are used and abused by so called democratic advocacy groups and political leaders alike. The manipulation of the media to sway public opinion by those with a vested interest is currently in full swing as I watch the ongoing protests by the Pro-Democracy movement in Hong Kong. Typically, stuck in the middle are the police officers who are forbidden to publicly exercise their personal political franchise, but instead must stand by silently and keep the peace and enforce the laws that indeed keep Hong Kong a safe and civil society.
The manipulation of the media to sway public opinion by those with a vested interest is currently in full swing.
I offer no opinion or view as to the validity of the current protests or the justification for them. I do see however, that many of the self proclaimed messiahs of the democratic movement, including some elected legislators are complete hypocrites. They are taking the easy and cowardly way out to put forth their position. These self-proclaimed “leaders” of the democracy movement goad and take provocative measures to incite attacks against the Police in the hopes of generating an intemperate response by an individual police officer, who typically is responding under very stressful circumstances. This individual response is then massaged for media consumption to portray the entire police force as oppressive and anti-democratic. Any attempts by the Hong Kong Police to defend themselves in the media is consistently drowned out by the shrill squeals of those who believe their criminal actions are justified because in their mind the cause is so noble.
Any attempts by the Hong Kong Police to defend themselves in the media is consistently drowned out.
It is ironic to me that Canada is viewed as a democratic sanctuary by many of the current protestors in Hong Kong, but I can absolutely guarantee that no police officer in Canada or any other Western liberal democracy would tolerate the abuse that Hong Kong police officers put up with when being assaulted or threatened with assault. I simply marvel at the brazenness of the misconduct by some legislators and some community activists towards the police.
During my service, I have seen first hand the life altering injuries that are received by police officers when being present at protests and riots, including the infamous Vancouver Stanley Cup riots, and G8 and G20 summits. Glass bottles thrown at the police have shattered on roofs of police cars and splintered into the eyes of police officers causing loss of vision. Police officers have been pushed by protesters through plate glass windows resulting in severed tendons by shards of broken glass. While the injuries may be unintentional, the result is still the same for the police officer who now goes home to his family with no eye or a limb that will never function properly again. These are only two examples from police officers I have personally worked with.
I have seen first hand the life altering injuries that are received by police officers when being present at protests and riots.
I have witnessed in Hong Kong masses of people being incited to push back the police, to force the police to physically confront the protesters. This all creates friction and exponentially increases the probability of a physical altercation or accidental mishap. Individual police officers are never asked whether they agree with the government or with the protestors. They are professional public servants who swear an oath to serve and protect Hong Kong and all its citizens. They do not have the luxury to decide whether they want to attend these large protests. They follow a Duty to Service and are told to be at the protest site to enforce the laws of Hong Kong. The police do not make laws nor do the police adjudicate laws, they merely enforce the laws.
A huge fallacy exists in the minds of many people about the role of the police. There is a belief by many members of the public, including sadly enough by some in the Judiciary, that police officers are expected to be spat upon, abused, threatened, assaulted or even maimed or killed because that is what they are being paid for. What utter tripe. The police willingly place themselves into harms way to serve and protect their fellow citizens, not to be abused and injured.
I fear the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has been hi-jacked by some individuals who follow the principles of responsible democracy in name only. I see a tremendous double standard at play. It appears the right to create chaos to forth a political opinion seems to be only for those who hold that same opinion. This is hardly a democratic precept and as always, it is the police officer who must silently hold the line to defend the democratic principles that Hong Kong holds so dear.