Stephen Wong Kai-yi (second right), privacy commissioner for personal data, and legislator Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan (third left) of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong hold a placard outside the commissioner’s office in Wan Chai on Tuesday. The DAB urged the commissioner to probe privacy breaches targeting police officers, whose personal information had been published on social media after clashes with protesters opposing the government’s extradition law amendments. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
Veteran Hong Kong police officers say more understanding and respect should be shown to their colleagues in the wake of growing animosity toward officers following recent protests against the now-suspended extradition law amendment bill.
The hard work of Hong Kong’s police officers has contributed to the city being recognized as one of the world’s safest cities for years
Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers Association, said the police had faced “overwhelming” pressure since suspension of the bill on June 15.
He lamented that too many officers were now experiencing insulting and aggressive behavior. Lam disclosed that police might be slandered as “dogs” or “dirty cops” even when patrolling the streets.
What upsets police most is widespread cyberbullying against officers and their family members, he added. Due to safety concerns, some told their children to keep a low-profile and not reveal their parents were police officers. This was hurting the self-esteem of both the officers and their children, he said.
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The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said On Tuesday it has received 130 cases of personal data leaks involving police officers and family members.
Retired chief inspector Luk Hoi-ho, who served in the force for more than 30 years, said the challenges police faced recently were “unprecedented”.
Working longer hours was one thing, said Luk, but some officers had been on duty for very long stressful shifts without a break, he added.
On Friday, protesters laid siege to the police headquarters for 16 hours. Officers who guarded the headquarters’ entrance were seen being verbally abused and had eggs thrown at them by radical protesters.
“Despicable” cyberbullying directed at officers also worsened the situation, including threatening messages, explained Luk, adding that this had greatly hurt police morale.
Luk expressed his worries that this could lead to police adopting a negative attitude when performing their duties. Some officers might think it was better to do nothing when considering action against radical protesters, he added.
Luk urged the public not to be misguided by rumors and adhere to the facts.
“More importantly, we should set aside political stands and try to understand the issue from the perspective of the police,” he added.
Similar comments were made by Kenny Po Chun-chung, president of Defend Hong Kong Campaign. He said people joined a rally organized by the group to support police because they believe police are vital to the city’s long-term stability.
The hard work of Hong Kong’s police officers has contributed to the city being recognized as one of the world’s safest cities for years. Last year, the city recorded the lowest overall crime figures since 1974 — with only 54,225 cases reported.
Po hopes more people can put themselves in police officers’ shoes. “Imagine if it was your friends or family members receiving these attacks — what would you do?” Po asked.
Defend Hong Kong Campaign has organized activities such as collecting signatures supporting actions by police and displaying to the public videos of protesters violently attacking officers.
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