Any Lessons Learned?

For the last two weeks I have been trying to wrap my brain around the incident where a young female primary school teacher swore like a trooper at police officers.

But all I have to show for my efforts so far is a headache. There are just too many loose ends.

Apparently it all started with the Falun Gong undertaking one of their regular propaganda exercises. Now I lost all sympathy for this organisation some years ago when I learned that the founder, Master Li, believes in apartheid. In his writings (which most of the followers never read) he argues that there is a separate room in heaven for each ethnic group. Therefore he does not support interracial marriage as there would be nowhere for the souls of the children to go when they die.

As a father of four Eurasian children, and having several mixed race grandchildren, I take exception to nonsense like this.

Nonetheless the Falun Gong is a lawful organisation in Hong Kong and its members have the right to peddle their views, however batty.

The trouble apparently began when a different organisation – the Hong Kong Youth Care Association – conducted a demonstration of their own in the same place to block the Falun Gong.

The website of this organisation shows that it is dedicated to fighting poverty. Nothing there about wider political objectives, so why was the Association running a spoiling operation? Is there, perhaps, a second Youth Care Association somewhere with a different agenda?

Be that as it may, along comes the teacher, Alpais Lam Wai Sze who sees the competing demonstrations and forms the opinion that the police are not affording sufficient protection to the Falun Gong. Rather they by inaction are permitting the Association to bully them.

Does Lam film the incident and file a report to CAPO, her Legislative Councillor and the media? She does not. Instead she screams like a banshee and scolds the officers on duty, including choice references to different parts of the human anatomy. Yes, including that word.

The whole scene is captured on film by someone else and uploaded to the web.

Enraged by the insults to Asia’s finest, someone organises another demonstration to show support for the police. Fair enough, but which organisation was it and did they have a permit?

A retiring police officer Gregory Lau, no longer exercising constabulary powers because his warrant card had been returned, addressed the crowd. Was he entitled to do so?

While we are still mulling answers to these questions along comes a different organisation to run a counter demonstration, in support of teacher Lam’s right to call the police whatever she wants in the name of free speech. The two parties scuffle.

Meanwhile Lam apologises – to her school, to the parents, the children, the public -- to everyone in fact except the police she had insulted.

Complaints pour in from all sides. Some are about teacher Lam but by far the majority are about pensioner Lau. To maintain the force’s reputation for impartiality (or its role as punchbag?) he should have refrained from participating in a political event, they said.

The answer to these challenges should have been perfectly simple. Lau is no longer a serving police officer and he has the same civic rights as any other citizen.

Obviously that would have been too easy, so instead Police Headquarters issued a statement which defied all logic by claiming that the demonstration was not a political activity.

Before you can find the appropriate reference to Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass this extraordinary statement is backed up by no less than the Chief Secretary and the Chief Executive.

What lessons should we draw from all these events? Most people still respect our police, and support them, but expect them to be impartial and that includes protecting the right of unpopular organisations to propagate their views unimpeded.

Most teachers understand that they are professionals who hold a special position in society because they have a unique role in shaping the next generation, and the community expects them to behave accordingly.

Someone needs to explain to Lam that apologies should be directed to the people she has maligned, not just those in a position to question her own position.

And will somebody please get a grip on government PR.

Meanwhile, no apple for this teacher, just a bottle of mouthwash.