By Suhas Bhat
A senior inspector from the Hong Kong Police spoke to students at the University of Hong Kong on Thursday, 26 October 2017, and stressed the importance of accuracy in the media.
At an event organized by the Journalism & Media Studies Centre, Simon Tsui Siu-Man, a senior inspector from the Hong Kong Police Public Relations Branch, briefed students from the Master of Journalism programme at the University of Hong Kong on the activities of the Police and answered some of their queries.
Tsui, an alumnus of HKU and former captain of the university football team, spoke on behalf of the police force at Meng Wah Complex. Tsui was part of the investigation unit in the narcotics bureau that nabbed 570 kilograms of cocaine worth more than HK$600 million in 2011.
Nearly 50 students from 14 different countries attended the talk and were briefed on multi-dimensional efforts by the Police to curb serious crime, supervise public events, monitor online media, and provide timely and accurate information to the general public.
The police spokesperson explained the importance of providing verified and accurately sourced information to the public much in the same way journalism professionals operate.
“Everyone can access newspapers and websites on their phone now, but accuracy is important,” Tsui said. “If the wrong information is accessed then the consequences could be tragic.”
Tsui said the Hong Kong Police aims to strike a balance between “privacy and prevention”.
Fielding queries from the students on police behaviour during Occupy Central in 2014 that saw the city come to a standstill due to a civil disobedience movement that lasted over 70 days, the police spokesperson stated that systems are put in place to ensure the impartiality of law enforcement. Tsui said the duty of police officers is only law enforcement and they “are not there to judge” at any public gathering.
“Police officers are not happy to see police officers breaching the law,” Tsui responded when Singaporean student Priscilla Lee enquired about the beating of activist Ken Tsang that saw seven police officers jailed for two years earlier this year.
“These police officers were not experienced at handling such an event. The Police have high standards to uphold in Hong Kong,” Tsui added. “Integrity was a major issue in the past. We have worked on this with better education and governance.”
Master of Journalism student Joanne Ma enquired about how the police derived crowd figures during public demonstrations but could not get a clear answer. She talked to the senior inspector following the event and found that police officers estimate crowd size through visual observation on footbridges.
“He said that the Police have no intention of lowering the number,” said Ma. “Maybe he assumed that we always think the Police are trying to make the number smaller.”
According to the official website of the police, overall crime has dipped in the current decade as nearly 200 crimes were reported daily in the period 2007-2012 while that figure has fallen by 22% to 154 in the first half of the year.
The government has, however, taken a firm stance on independence activists, and Occupy Central leader Joshua Wong was released on bail earlier in the week after two months in custody.
Suhas Bhat, a former sports reporter at FOX Sports Asia, is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong. A long-term expat in Southeast Asia, he writes on race, migration, expatriate life, poverty, human rights and minorities in Asian settings.
Photography by Ryan Heng Chang (MJ 2018).