In Hong Kong animosity between police and citizens has grown to an alarming level as ever-increasing amounts of tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings and water cannon have been used to deal with the resentful crowds. In the past four months more than 2,700 arrests have been made.
“Larry Yeung” joined the police more than 20 years ago. Yeung sympathises with the protesters: “If I wasn’t a policeman I’d be out on the streets like them.” and he explained, “Police should protect citizens, but instead, we’ve become a tool of the authorities for ‘stability maintenance’. Our top officials are hiding and we’ve become their shields.” Yeung disapproves of his colleagues’ violent behaviour, something that has driven a wedge between them. “When we were in the academy, we were taught to use only the minimum amount of force. It’s not for us to deliver punishment,” he says. “But now, the majority of the police think the ‘rioters’ need to be punished … they attack people indiscriminately, even non-protesters. The awful thing is, the majority of police don’t see it as a problem. When they watch footage of police beating people, they shout for joy: ‘Yeah, we’re hitting the cockroaches!’,” he says. “They don’t give any consideration to their high ideals of freedom and democracy.”
Asked why police have resorted to increasingly brutal acts, Yeung says many of his colleagues were angry and felt entitled to abuse their powers. “It’s the ‘Lucifer effect’– power drives people crazy. They’re angry and they need an outlet. But this is sacrificing the reputation of the police force.” He maintains he can only support a government that serves the people.
“If the country is built with flesh and blood, if people’s freedoms and lives have to be sacrificed for ‘development’, I’d rather not have that,” he says. “The very least I can do is to refrain from doing evil myself and to remind my colleagues not to get excessive. But they often ask: ‘So, which side are you on?’”