An Open Letter to Hong Kong

September 29, 2014

From: Ulf Olofsson – resident of Hong Kong

1 October 2014 footnote: It has been brought to my attention that this letter has been used by anti-Occupy Central groups to show that foreigners too are “against the violent protesters”. I am not part of any anti-movement and do not endorse any such opinion. Based on the hundreds of comments this open letter has generated I understand that it appears as though I’m pro-police and anti-protesters. This is very far from the truth. This open letter may come across biased towards the police but that is mainly because of what I experienced personally at a specific (and limited) location and with specific (and limited) social media feeds. The examples I bring up are only meant to serve as anecdotal perspectives towards treating each other with more respect and tolerance and does not intend to push any political agenda or take a stance for or against either the police or the protesters. Though the comment section is long, if you want more clarification I invite you to read my responses and then it will be very clear as to where I stand and what I’m trying to accomplish. – Ulf

2nd footnote 1 October 2014: Apparently my open letter has been translated into Chinese and is being circulated. I appreciate someone taking the time to do so, but I have not been sent a copy, nor have I had someone verify the translation who knows both English and Cantonese well. If anyone has a link to the Chinese translation or knows who did it, please forward me the link or information. Thanks.

Update 1 October 2014 10:30 pm: Someone whom I don’t know translated my open letter into Chinese. Apparently the translation is a bit rough around the edges but relays the gist of my English original. I’m sharing it here for those who have a hard time getting through the English version. Just please don’t expect me to answer in Chinese or being able to read any Chinese comments

I was personally in Admiralty yesterday afternoon and early evening and followed minute by minute the events that unfolded as the public protesters clashed with police and tear gas was used. My social media feeds (and those of my wife’s) were in hyperdrive. The overwhelming majority of posts and statements were not about the resolve to stand up for a more democratic Hong Kong, nor did they cover any organized direction from anybody. What they did cover however were statement after statement, photo after photo, video after video with one unified message: The Hong Kong police are the evil scum of earth!

Where violations against the law occurred, and where human rights violations happened and were uncalled for and excessive force was used, yes, please take swift and just action! I am not however going to address the right or wrong doing of the Hong Kong police force as far more qualified people than I can do so. I am going to address that those targeting the police instead of the real issues, the real targets, will get Hong Kong and its citizen absolutely nowhere, and if anything will only have a damaging and regressing effect. Note that I state “targeting” and am not disputing the fact that you are angry about what the police did.

I’m not from here, but I do live and work in Hong Kong and have done so for a little more than 4 years. I’ve been around – 20 years in the U.S. and 20 years in Sweden where I was born and raised. I’ve been to most of Europe, Central America as well as South Africa and mainland China. I have a pretty darn good idea of the rest of the world and therefore am able to view Hong Kong from a different perspective than maybe many local citizens. This is not a “right” perspective but is offered as a different perspective.

Not just because I’m not a native here, but because I can compare Hong Kong from personal experience to other parts of the world which gives a broader perspective. I have two friends who are connected to the Hong Kong police force. One is an active officer who was on duty last night. The other one is recently retired. The active officer happens to be a person I really respect. Some of my friends when growing up in Sweden were in the police force. As part of making documentaries I’ve met and experienced police forces in several places of the world.

I experienced the LA riots in 1992 first hand as we helped form a human chain to protect our building. Yesterday I both spoke to and observed various police officers in length. I asked one officer when he started his shift. He said, “5 am.” I asked when it will end. He said, ”When it is over.” By this time it was about 5 pm and he had been standing in 30 degrees heat, in pretty much one location for 12 hours. He had another 10 or so hours to go.

Among the dozens of faces I observed I saw fear, anxiety, worry, and sadness – probably the same type of emotions that went through all of you as the day progressed. As I was talking to a police officer, a young Cantonese guy walked up to me and told me not to talk to the police as they all lie. He asked me in an accusatory way, “Where are you from?” Followed by, “You know nothing!” As I made it clear to him that I was going to continue to speak with the police officer, he walked away proclaiming, “F__k you, you piece of shit!”

Standing there in the midst of the crowd, at least at my particular location, one message became much impregnated into my mind. It wasn’t a message of unity and solidarity. It wasn’t a message about the need for democracy. It wasn’t even a message about standing up for your rights and be heard – the only unanimous message repeated by the crowd was a volley of anger and personal insults of the worst kind hurled at the police from the protesters – and this was before any drastic police action had taken place.

My phone was literally getting heated up from the constant notifications from friends scolding the police on Facebook. The public was understandably angry and so became the police. Orders were issued and there were the clashes, tear gas, etc. Terrible – yes!

I could start to list faults from each side, but my purpose in writing this open letter to you has nothing to do with finding faults. I’m not even trying to defend the police. I’m trying to make a point that what I experienced last night can be best summed up as a mob mentality with those people involved in the observations above (not the protesters as a whole.) It was a sort of social contagion where a concept or idea (in this case about the police) spread like wildfire once it had been stated.

One positive aspect I will acknowledge was that many came together despite long ours of threat of police force and stood resolute to be heard and noticed towards a somewhat common cause.

But I do want to ask you this: If you had been standing outside for 12-14 hours in 30 degrees heat in full uniform trying to do your job while getting berated by verbally abusive people for hours, how would you behave and react? Some people argued that any police officer with a conscience should have quit their job after July 1st. Really? And then what? Anarchy? Others argued that they shouldn’t have followed orders. Tricky argument…

According to several international studies Hong Kong is considered one of the safest cities in the world to live in and it has the third lowest murder rate in the world. Does this maybe have something to do with its police? Per a UN survey in 2006 a full 90% of Hong Kong citizens considered that the police did a “very good job” or a “fairly good job.” So the police became one of the best to one of the worst in less than 8 years? Probably not, but evidently it has gotten worse in later years.

Since I moved to Hong Kong 4 years ago I have never been robbed nor have I heard a gunshot. When living in LA I would hear gun shots almost daily in some parts of the city like South Central. When I was new and not familiar with getting around in HK, where many public on the street would walk away from me when I asked, every police officer I ever encountered gave me the directions I needed, and often with a smile.

Personally I have a hard time grasping how the police can stand dealing with the rotten bottom of society day in and day out, night in and night out. Sometimes I don’t understand why they haven’t lost all faith in humanity. Especially after the night shift street patrol comes home with piss and puke on their uniforms after having been threatened, captured on mobile video and called the worst imaginable names. But I’m very thankful that they are there when I’m sleeping; that they are protecting me and my wife; that they remove the drunken drivers and the pigs that make millions selling drugs to our youth.

Is there corruption in the police? Probably to some degree. Are there bad police officers? Most likely – just as there are bad people in every group in existence on the planet today, and throughout history. The police protect, help and put order into things. That is undeniable.

But sometimes, as in any other activity, there’s an emergency or even catastrophe and things go out of control. Like last night when protesters suddenly charged the barricade of police to gain entrance to the street. Sure, in retrospect it is easy to say, “They should have been calmer; they shouldn’t have used tear gas; they should have found a different solution, etc.” I’m glad I wasn’t one of the policemen that got charged. Not because several of them got hurt and had to be given immediate medical attention. But if I had been charged by an angry crowd after enduring 12 hours of public berating in the sun, I know one thing – I had seconds to make my decisions. In those seconds I may not have had time to go through all the politically correct protocols but I would react pretty much on instinct and I would have most likely not made the most objective decisions, especially if I was angry as well.

In retrospect it is very easy to criticize. Social media and the news media are percolating with police criticism at the time of this writing. For 4 years I lived in the state of Florida, U.S.A. The police in Florida have very different instructions than here in Hong Kong. If there is any threat to someone’s life they shoot. And if they shoot, they can shoot to kill without consequence to the officer. I’m not mentioning this because I think it is right, but to give a different perspective if what happened last night would have taken place in Florida or many other places with completely different rules and values.

In the last several months dozens and dozens of various organized protests have occurred around the world. I am not talking marches for climate, etc – I’m talking about protests, usually against the government or some of their actions. Not one was peaceful and hardly any of them had zero casualties. Some had many casualties.

Currently there is a debate as to the use of rubber bullets and tear gas. I don’t know the answers as I am not a riot expert. But I do know that this debate is not something media and social media should carry out AGAINST the police who patrol our streets day in and day out.  That debate should be directed towards those responsible to make decisions.

If we continue to only blame the police the outcome contains no winners. The correct targets are the senior officers, the politicians and those they answer to. As I mentioned before, what I observed yesterday and still am observing through social media is this social contagion where a large portion of the public is following the apparently socially correct attitude – hate the cops! Wrong target!

Where was CY Leung in all this? He was hunkering in his bunker only issuing some politically correct PR statements amounting to nothing. What is a Chief Executive, the top leader of Hong Kong doing hiding instead of guiding and leading his people? The students demanded his presence and demanded to be heard. No response from the region’s leader… He’s a correct target but not the only one. The police received their orders from CY Leung. Not even sure how much Beijing and the China Liaison office played part in this.

I want to make clear, I’m not writing this open letter to criticize the protesters or the people of Hong Kong, but as I’m living and working here I wanted to say something because I know that those aspects of social contagion that I witnessed will not have a good outcome. If you disagree with your Government or in this case both the Government and the decision handed down from Beijing regarding Hong Kong’s democracy, I agree that actions such as non-violent and organized protests and simply not participating in the system you disagree with (such as not going to work or school) could be effective actions to take.

Thousands and thousands are doing that tirelessly right now and my respect is with you!

However, hurling insults at the police for hours on end and demonizing them all throughout news and social media (just as with the police using uncalled for and excessive force) will not help your situation or Hong Kong as a whole. I want to have and live in a better Hong Kong. I know you do too. I hope you can consider what I wrote despite it being an emotional topic and review your own outlook and participation in how you act towards each other and the situation with more tolerance, respect and understanding.

Thank you, Ulf Olofsson


  1. Thank you for your letter and for expressing your view.
    As much as I applaud those who are at this moment standing up for what they believe in in HK, I am quite sad to see how this whole situation has turned out of control; not in the sense of what is happening on the streets but on social media.

    As you said, our social media pages has been filled with messages, posts, photos and videos of the protest, almost one sided-ly condemning the HK police of excessive brutality. Random pieces of posts in support of the police are quickly bombarded with replies of anger and threats. I’ve seen people who oppose the occupation being named and shamed, threats on FB of ‘friends’ unfriending others for not sharing their own views and endless nasty exchange of words. Call me a coward but I admit to being afraid to express my own opinion just so to stay out of heated arguments that can potential harm my relationship with others (even family members). Where is our freedom of expression? People are condemning the police for breaching human rights, yet here they are trying to silent others with opposing views with such anger. Isn’t the freedom of expression an fundamental part of human rights?

  2. Reblogged this on ΣPHΣMΣRAL TICKS and commented:
    Thank you for your insight…more Hong Kong people need to see this!

  3. Reblogged this on brightbluecitylights and commented:
    I’ve lived here in Hong Kong for pretty much all my life, and the protesters who sleep on the floors at night because what they’re protesting against means so much to them makes me proud to be a Hong Konger. However, although I fully support the protesters in their peaceful bid for democracy, I can’t help but feel bad for the police officers who have to stay there for just as long and stand in the sweltering, humid Hong Kong heat. Many of these officers might even have friends and family who are protesting, which must make it worse for them when all hell breaks loose.

  4. Hi! Thanks so much for writing up such a long article. I agree with most of the points that you wrote, as I have always been trying to think in the perspective of the police officers as well. However, what happened recently (with tear gas shooting to the first aid stations etc) has become a bit too much in my sense. This in fact reached a point that I would say if I am a police officer in HK, I would rather disobey the orders (eg. just don’t spray directly to the protestors, or don’t even shoot tear gas as instructed…i know this is tricky, but the reason that many citizens are angry/disappointed/feeling miserable are probably because of the feeling of “betrayal”) or even….find another job? (I understand that how difficult it could be to look for another job or even to live in HK without a job…but to a level that you have obey a government that only hides/lies….maybe it’s time to make up their minds)

    Sorry got to go for now, hopefully you will meet some better people when asking for directions in HK next time 😛 thanks!

    1. I’m sure many police officers are truly morally conflicted and I can understand your point of view regarding the police. I think it is something each and every officer will have to make up his own mind about, but due to social factors (losing your job) and general social pressure, they are tricky situations to deal with. It seems as though some are however and once a few have started maybe more will dare to follow suit.

  5. C.H. Ching · · Reply

    I am born in HK and living in HK close to 60 years, without a chance living elsewhere except short trips. I have been watching live broadcast day and night until 5 in the morning since 1 am Saturday, with TVB and Now TV side by side.
    1. Even some one is blind not able to view the screen, one should have listened to the reporters repeating the words ‘people are charging against the police’. If this is not violence, shooting people will be downgrade to become very mild action.
    2. If we can realize that those mad protesters have suddenly disappeared in last 36 hours, allowing an environment for a peaceful demonstration these 2 days, I would say it is the tear gas made them chicken out, or else we don’t have the luxury of such less chaotic environment. Of course, I cannot provide any proof about the effect of the teargas just mentioned, but I strongly believe it did help.
    3. Providing viewpoint without knowing HK deeply is not a problem, as long as someone knows the details of any particular incidence clearly. Without knowing HK deeply can provide objective viewpoints from different angles and without burden of bias. People claiming knowing HK may in reality knowing nothing about HK but just the gestures (probably I am one).
    4. I appreciate your analysis very much — I may not agree to all your viewpoints but I respect your viewpoints 100%.

  6. Straya mate · · Reply

    Thank you Ulf for this post. It is incredibly important for all people, Hong Kongers and observers to have perspective. I live in Australia, but my heritage is in Hong Kong, and have lived there for some time. I have seen police in action both in Australia and Hong Kong and can give a fairly good comparison. One police force has a culture of aggression and laziness, the other has a culture of serving the community and perseverance. It’s obvious which countries I am describing. The ease at which people are criticizing the police force in HK comes without any idea of how policing is done elsewhere.

    While the police aren’t and weren’t perfect in their enforcement on day/night one, it is apparent that they have been doing it right on day two and coming three. If this were to happen in Australia, they would have easily been hauled off to prison on the first night. Throw in arbitrary tazer use, even more pepper spray than what could’ve been imagined on day one, and floggings and beatings for good measure. People should not easily attribute the force police used with the Chinese government and believe that Hong Kong is suddenly in the midst of Tiananmen Part Two.

    That said, I have seen videos of police abusing people, and this is clearly wrong. However, this is still not on the scale that has been seen outside Hong Kong. I have also seen videos of police officers trying to restrain other officers that have gone “off the chain”, and I highly commend them for that. I am unable to picture that happening here in Australia with our own police forces. Once people realise the timidity of the Hong Kong police force relative to ‘bastions’ of democracy like America (re: Ferguson), or Australia, they will realise that they’ve had it relatively easy, especially when the police have pulled back now.

    In the end, the fight for democracy should not be marred with arbitrary discrimination against the police, as popular as it may be. As another commented, ‘it takes two to tango’. If protestors begin to grow respect for the police force, and realise how much better their police force currently is treating them relative to other democratic nations, there will be less animosity growing between police officers and protestors.


    1. Really appreciate your Australian perspective!!!

  7. Reblogged this on Ken's space.

  8. I read your article and agree with most except 2 points. 1) I believe the HK police should use whatever force deem necessary to keep peace and protect themselves. you can see the protestors bring their umbrellas, why ? they expect police to use pepper spray once they started charging at them. so it was never meant to be a peaceful demonstration. and police should use tear gas to start with and skip pepper spray. I know u disagree but its the most efficient way to disperse an unlawful crowd. In this case, it didn’t work because they stopped once they see the crowd has move back somewhat but the crowd came back. I lived in the US for 42 years and yes, i’ve seen LA riot. I perhaps gotten use to how police here treat their citizens. compare to the HK police, HK police is just too gentle. 2) regarding CY, if I were him, I wouldn’t talk to them either. Why? because they are like children throwing a tantrum, u don’t give me what I want? I’ll kill myself. That’s how I dealt with my kids, I don’t talk to u until u calm down. They are asking for something they know they are never gonna get. China will NEVER allow a CEO to be anti-communist. they are very clear on that, u don’t have to like them or agree with their party but CEO can not be anti-China. Is that so hard to understand? That’s not being a coward just not to lit fuse into the fire. in some of the comment u received, u see how ppl dislike him so he should stay low until things calm down and it eventually will.

  9. While I agree there is no point in provoking the police and focusing on their actions, I think your are failing to mention an important point: both the politicians who could make decisions (in Beijing) and their representative in Hong Kong have been categorically refusing to discuss the issues protesters are bringing to the table and to make any compromise. Policemen are therefore the only government representatives people have access to. This is unfair to the police forces (and due to coward and authoritarian politicians), but if someone wants to protest against the government, a policeman is as good a representative they will find to express their opinion and release their possible anger. You are probably quite right in saying US police forces are often more heavy handed than their Hong Kong counterparts; but at the same time you are eluding the fact that except in the case of violent riots attention wouldn’t focus to the police as much in the US because in the case of such a large scale protest politicians would HAVE TO talk to the leaders of the protest and debate the real issues in the media. In that way the attention of the people could be directed at the right issues/targets (ie policies and politicians), and talks would be around what people want rather that how the police is treating them. This is not happening in Hong Kong, and I think taking into account how much their views have been ignored demonstrators have impressed many people around the world for remaining mainly non-violent (I am pretty sure here in Europe there would have been a lot of damage to shops and public equipment, which I don’t believe has happened in HK to date). I think the way leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong are dealing with this is actually a very good illustration of what protesters are trying to express: the voice of demonstrators clearly doesn’t mater to politicians and the only government officials they are sending to engage with the people are policemen. What are people supposed to do to react to this? Just me 2 cents seen from Ireland …

    1. Boris, your 2 cents from Ireland are worth $100! Very interesting angle and a perspective worth reading and understanding!

      1. Glad you found it useful … well done for having gotten an interesting debate kicked-off 🙂

    2. Geraldine Lin · · Reply


      Extremely good point! Especially this one, I hope you don’t mind that I quote it as I could not phrase it better than you do!!

      “I think the way leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong are dealing with this is actually a very good illustration of what protesters are trying to express: the voice of demonstrators clearly doesn’t mater to politicians”

      1. Happy to hear some people find it interesting!

        And I really wish HK and its people all the best. It is a really special place both in China and in Asia in general and and hopefully it is allowed to evolve in whichever way the majority of its people deem necessary.

  10. Dear Mr. Olofsson, Thank you for your insightful opinions and observations. I am an expatriate who has lived in Hong Kong for approximately 14 years. I am amazed at the incredible movement that is taking place now and extremely proud of all Hong Kong citizens who are peacefully demonstrating. I was wondering if you could oblige me by answering one very simple question.
    In the history of the past 50 years has there ever been another demonstration on the scale (estimated at 50,000 people) of “Occupy Central” where there has been no looting, no acts of vandalism, no property damage, no arson and the crowd has remained generally peaceful?
    I cannot think of another occasion in any other city.
    I am very proud to be part of Hong Kong and extremely proud of the wonderful Hong Kong citizens who are conducting themselves in an orderly and peaceful manner.

    1. Graeme, I can’t think of one either and it is extremely laudable that the majority of Hong Kong protesters are keeping it non-violent!

  11. Hi, Glad to read a fair opinion. Rex

  12. Master Wong · · Reply

    thank you for your words. this open letter is now being widely spread in HK’s community.

  13. Geraldine Lin · · Reply

    I am a Hong Kong citizen and I lived in Denmark for 8 years and read/speaks danish. However, I wouldn’t say I am good enough to understand a political situation in Denmark (happened last year when all teachers on strike and no teacher in school for a month! And children have no school to go one month before exam. Chaos, not?). I grasped the background of the situation but I would never say I know enough to comment on it.

    Living in Hong Kong for 4 years and do not speaks Cantonese, you don’t get to engage in a proper conversation with the locals. I wondered what makes you think your statement is not biased by doubting their motive – “It wasn’t a message of unity and solidarity. It wasn’t a message about the need for democracy. It wasn’t even a message about standing up for your rights and be heard – the only unanimous message repeated by the crowd was a volley of anger and personal insults of the worst kind hurled at the police from the protesters – and this was before any drastic police action had taken place.”

    As a person grown up in HK with too muchs friends on fb, I have not received any “unanimous message repeated by the crowd was a volley of anger and personal insults of the worst kind hurled at the police from the protesters” before the pepper spray, aka drastic police action in my book.

    You claimed the only thing is that the crowd is aginst the police – it is becasue you can only see picture on fb? This is physical and image; and therefore this is the only thing you managed to take in. You missed a lot more than you imagine if you cannot read or understand dialogue between people.

    Reading your article, you try so hard to make sure you state that you don’t stand either sides or want to offend anyone. But, clearly, you are on the police side. Honestly, if you are so afriad of offend people, don’t write this article.

    I do agreed that the whole activity could have planned better and that CY Leung is the one is ultimately responsible for this chaos.

    1. I think it is pretty clear by now that’s I’m not afraid of offending. If you don’t think you could comment of have a say about anything in Denmark after 8 years that’s your problem and not a view I share. I agree that I don’t have and will not have a full grasp of the picture as far as opinions and I do agree that not speaking fluent Cantonese is not helping, but that’s not the point of the letter. My personal experience that day and via my feeds may have been a narrow one, as pointed out by many and factually I’m happy that is the case. Yesterday my personal experience was that the very large majority of protesters were much calmer and peaceful. I’m trying to do something from my capacity. It may not sit well with you, but apparently it sat OK with others. If I have something to say that could possibly contribute, then I will say it and not just keep it in my head fearing I may make a fool out of myself. If I can contribute in any way, I rather do that while being wrong and making a fool out of myself!

      1. jasper222 · · Reply

        well i do appreciate your honesty about your narrow view based on your personal experience only, and doing things limited by your capacity.

        I do agree as Hong Kongers I am enjoying a very great degree freedom so far, and being in one of the safest city in the world, and definitely this could not be done w/o the great job of the Hong Kong Police all along!! No doubts and I am sure many of the Hong Kongers agree and appreciate that.

        and as reading the social media / articles / personal experience the context / comment to the Police, in general, have nothing personal to individual policeman/police woman (as someone has already point out, it’s to “the Police” as an organization) – we all understand each individual policemen/policewoman are mainly on the execution part only. Agree with you that the blames shall line with those who placed order. so yes definitely CY and the chief police office Tsang Wai Ho should held responsible for these orders (in case you haven’t catch that, as per CY’s press conference, (CY) has full confidence on Police’s professionalism on their decision on handling the situation). Hence, definitely both of them held responsible for such a poor decision.

        And in the same context, definitely for Hong Kongers, and other who consider HK as home, is entitled to ask why these 2 individuals on this particular decision making, or justification in brief, of using things like tear gas.

        So, that’s an on going issue/investigation and shouldn’t end there, the Police, as an organization, owe the Hong Kongers an explanation of whatever happened, before HKers can move on, to move on MORE important thing – our request for the gov’t to talk to us for our democracy.

        (when over 50k of demonstrators joined since last Friday not a single shop is set on fire / robbed, I am sure no one in the world would say this demonstration (so far) is anything close to violent enough to trigger the use of tear gas)

        In terms of personal experience, I am there every day since Sat, in various time. I would not say I have the complete picture (as I know i definitely don’t have), but all along I have not seen personally that any of the protesters insult any individual policeman/policewoman. Again, for sure I know my view is very limited, I tried my best to search and view clips from both sides. I believe most of us being there that night do not agree with personal attacks (protesters vs. Police, or vice versa). It’s a basis respect to each other. While we can’t demand everyone acts 100% saint all the time, as you said similar to the police the protesters have been in the same weather condition and suffer from similar weather so both parties may not be in their best stage.

        And just to broaden and increase our capacity, to avoid ourselves being the 井底蛙(frog under the well as Chinese said), and in case some may have difficulty to being at the site (or not long enough to experience first hand), or pick up from what’s going on in various media (CNN/BBC…)… here’s a few interesting link

        Students vs the police: Who says police are not popular? We just hate that excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators

        protesters volunteer to clean up trash (oh, i’m sure you can search multiple photos taken)

        protesters cooperate with ambulance (not police particular) (9/30 15:45):

        an overview of what’d happened after the teargas (9/27):

        and why are we here (9/28)

        and you can also search by “Umbrella revolution””

        I think it’s always good to broaden one’s capacity. You are more than welcome for the above links and no need to say “thank you” to me. Afterall it’s easy to find similar details from various social media, (and for facebook one just need to get pass the tricky facebook newsfeed options)

        Last but not least, I think every person in the world want to have and live in a better place at their home, I don’t see any difference for Hong Kongers, or expats here. Instead of hoping others to make your life in HK a better one, why not starting from yourself by learning the language, mix with locals, or just being part of protest to increase your capacity, and wish you more “happier-4-yrs” experience in HK.

  14. Pierre V · · Reply

    Hi Ulf, as a resident of Hong Kong married to a Hongkongese woman for more than 30 years now, I’m really worried about what is next for Hong Kong People. We’ve seen and witness a lot of police brutality everywhere in the world, but I have to admit that so far we cannot compare Hong Kong police with lets say; Ferguson County police, as you stressed in your article, they shoot to kill.
    I surely hope that the Hong Kong authorities understand what is at at stake here: struggle for real democracy. Any manifestation of the amplitude will also destabilze the ruling bodies of acountry, that’s the purpose of these huge demonstrations. My question for now is: Does anyone (Beijing and CY Leung included) want a peaceful resolution of this conflict ? Does Beijing really care about Hong Kong ? If so, in what way?

    1. Good questions Pierre!

  15. Warewhulf
    another rmemeber of the 50 cents army!
    Go spread you PLA propoganda on the mainland. and Get the fawk out ofHK!

    1. Thanks you for your intelligent contribution to the situation!

  16. Thanks for your letter. Thank you for a fair judgement. I used to admire the police too. I used to want to be part of them. But unfortunately they have been inside the standford prison experiment, their behaviour / orders given were disappointing. The hk people’s condemnation is not perhaps so much on the police themselves but their representation as an entity of the hk govt. their handling of the issue seemingly so ‘red’. Their insecurities and desperation to hurt because they couldnt solve something. Like a child, they were ill tempered and turned what could have been a peaceful demonstration has turned into a battlefield they create for themselves. Personally, this is a very wrong move.
    I also lived in the UK for 8 years. I agree that had it happened anywhere else in the world it could have been worse. But comparing how worse it could have been is neither a positive way nor a constructive way to propose solutions. I do thank you for your care. Admirable in speaking for this place you only lived 4 years. With all due respect, However, hk was never in your blood. These people protesting lives in HK, they have gone through years of uncertainty, even when the british were ruling, they have a difficulty identifying with any country at all, but this is our home and our future. We have no where to go. I understand that our fight for democracy seems to be a bit of a lost cause right now, but for what had happened to us, we are allowed emotion? Be human, and let us cry for now.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts!

  17. David Tanner · · Reply

    Excellent article that pretty much sums up my views as well. Thank you for sharing your views, and I wish more Hong Kong people can clam down and think about consequences before their actions or words.

    I am a so called “white shirt” that voted against occupy Central and I’m writting this during my lunch break because there only seems to one voice out there, and it doesn’t sound like the majority, nor does it look at the situation in a wider picture. Like you, I’ve been around the world a bit, but have stayed in Hong Kong on and off for the last 20 odd years.

    First things first, HK people have freedom of speech beyond many countries, this includes major western countries such as America and the UK. Freedom of speech is one thing, but breaking the law is another. I sincerly hope the police and government press heavy charges against the organizors who, to say the least have brought so much inconveniences, damages and losts to “white shirts” and ordinary citizens such as myself, who just want to go about their daily life uninterrupted.

    Breaking the law to make someone hear your opinion not only makes those with undecided opinions sway towards against you, but the more important thing is, the government would NOT listen to your demands. The way the protests are conducted also seem to miss the point; what has Hong Kong got to offer in return for Democracy??? What bargaining chips does HK have to make China or HK government change their mind? The answer is NONE.
    Why would China give us unfiltered elections, when most democratic countries are not doing so?
    To stand for US elections, you have to be born in US. To stand for UK elections, you have to be a UK citizen, and to get the citizenship, you have to pass the UK citizenship test, which pretty much is declaring your love for Britain and the Queen.

    It just doesn’t make sense, but one consequence I urge people to think beyond the current affairs is what if China did really give HK unfiltered elections?
    Taiwan would follow, and China will be a mess, because all the chinese people would want the same and rebel against the party.
    Is this what the protestors want? Since HK relies so heavily on China for food, water, finance and daily goods, I think not. So I think people should be looking deeper into what the organizor’s motivties are, start asking questions!!! Know what real causes you are supporting before you stand on them streets, know who you are breaking the law, risking your life for! Look beyond the masks. Don’t just look at an aspect from one point of view, look at it from different angles! Don’t just rely on one source of information or newspaper, look at different sources and come to your own conclusion! Think for YOURSELF, and not what those around you think for you!!!

    I really feel for the police. I have quite a few friends in the police, and to know they are taking abuse everyday in such heat, though no fault of their own, really shows what HK people has degraded to. The police are there to maintain order, and when it comes to a necessity, use force.
    The force the HK police used is not excessive in my opinion.
    They are heavily outnumbered, with no methods of dispercing the crowd.
    In western countries, horse, battons and rubber bullets would surely be used by now.
    In China, tanks and curfews, dare I say.

    I fully support the Hong Kong police!
    Do what you have to do, in order to bring those to justice!

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective David. I think there’s lots of food for thought in what you have to say!

    2. Gweilo abroad · · Reply

      Seriously David? It’s a bit rich coming from someone who is from a democratic country (an assumption based on your name, correct me if I’m wrong), to criticise the HK people for wanting universal suffrage. There is a huge difference between voting for someone who is a citizen of your country, and only being able to choose from a list of “acceptable candidates”. And your point about democracy spreading, is that a bad thing? It may destabilize things for a bit, but in the long term self – determination is a human right, just one of many that has been consistently trampled on by Beijing. I would say that the only people that would suffer from a democratic China are the greedy capitalists who are addicted to Chinese money and cheap Labour. Interesting how the name “white shirt” is so similar to “white collar”. I’m SO sorry that you and your banker wankers friends are having trouble getting to work, but there is more to a country than an economy! P.S. A large portion of my life savings are invested in Asia and particularly China, so I’m losing money due to the protests, but I do not begrudge the HK people their fight for true democratic reform! Viva la revolution!
      To the main article, right on! Stay on message, the enemies are Beijing and CY, not the police!

      1. David Tanner · · Reply

        Mate, yes, you are wrong. Maybe you should not make assumptions.

        I was born abroad but I studied and worked most of my life in HK. And being a white shirt or collar or whatever you wana call it doesn’t make me a banker nor does it make my friends wankers. Being personal is not going to change my opinion, and you have yours, I respect it. Just hope you respect yourself.

        I also have plenty of friends who sees faults in democracy, where in the UK or US, is not really fully implemented. I’ve never said or implied whether democracy is good or bad, of cause, everyone would like a choice to choose, but what I’m trying to get across is China would not let us do that, and it’s obivous that China would take a long long time to implement it even if there is to be changes or riots in China, and HK wouldn’t just suffer, with no backing from our biggest backer, and no guarantee of the future being better. Is this what these protesters want? Please do enlighten me.

        Of cause everyone wants a better future, but if you think sitting on a street illegally, shouting slogans through a speaker phone following university professors and a bishop who “care” and this would get you what you want, instead of working for it yourself, then fine by me, go ahead, just get out of the way of others (Saying this in my most polite voice) who have lifes to live, kids to feed, deadlines to meet, clients to serve and families to protect.
        Because of the way the protests are happening, from my point of view, the protesters are like a baby crying for a toy. There are ways to ask for what you want, but sitting on the street aint gona get you anywhere.

        We can go on all day, but end of the day, if you think other democratic countries don’t screen their party leaders and that everyone of them is elected through one person one vote, no filtering as called for by the HK protesters, then I personally think you might be a little naiive, and you should as I wrote get your information from more than one source and see if you come to the same conclusion.

        Thanks for your feedback.

    3. Alan Tam · · Reply

      It is interesting to see all these comments in English when more than 90% of the population are Chinese. Hopefully they won’t fall on deaf ears. Anyhow I guess you are just kicking yourself you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. When the very first time the thought of settling in a place in PRC crossed your mind you should know it might come to this. After all, big bucks go with big risks. If one wants to desire lower risk one may move to Switzerland (just note “an open letter to the Swiss” will be better received if written in German, French or Italian 🙂 )

      1. Thanks Alan, if I ever need a class in how to be subtly cynical, I’ll give you a call!

  18. Though I agree that the focus should be in tr democracy other than in the Police, I think you are too subjective. You should have known about the history before judging the people’s anger. Hong Kong was and still would be a safe place to live in when comparing to US and many part of the world you mentioned due to people are not able to carry any weapon legally, and because of its own culture etc. Of coz the police did a good job in protecting citizens. But please don’t be too naive in viewing Police Force as a hero image. At least they just broken their image in people’s heart by what happened 9/28. Furthermore, the citizens, they also gave up their own leisure time and even their works to be in the street at such long hours and days during such heat. If you are just walking by, don’t judge them for they had said you understand nothing. Because you do understand nothing. Just like me. I am not from Hong Kong. I have been abroad to a country for studies for almost 5 years. But I can surely tell you, I couldn’t have myself understand their culture thoroughly and sometimes I would even think they are dump or stupid. But I know this is the part I am not understanding them. Just like they don’t understand me. I just would like to say, if you would like to think positively that the police force are always good, it’s alright, but just don’t be too naive. And if you are not the one got hurt by them, don’t neglect the voice of many desperate people who were hurt and they need helps.

    1. Thanks for your opinion. You’re telling me I’m judging and being too subjective. There isn’t much judgement in my letter. I present information. Not complete information, or all information, but some – it is a letter not a dissertation. Throughout your comment you are judging me and what I said, and your judgement is not correct.

  19. Hi, there. A reasonable piece from a particular perspective. I maybe raising point that have been raise before and I do apologies as I do not have the time to go through all the comments. Following are a few somewhat disjointed thoughts and observation I have:

    I agree that individual police officers should not be personally targeted. It is unfortunate that they belong to a force which collectively, in my view, has done a pretty lousy job in maintaining order/dispensing protesters/suppressing “riots”, however you like to call it.

    The situation escalated due to several action of the police force. Unreasonable restriction of access to protest area, detaining student leaders and refusing bail (for which the Court subsequently grant order of habeas corpus). Dragging students on the floor, firing tear gas canister aiming at protesters in almost point blank range, firing tear gas canisters at first aid stations, pepper spraying people who were doing absolutely nothing. Is there a reason for people to be angry with the police? I cannot even come up with an exhaustive list.

    Of course, these are symptoms of ineffective and dysfunctional leadership, which front line police officers should not be blamed for. However, for the several days I was standing near the front line, there are plenty of over zealous officers who seems quite determined to hurt.

    Further, it is not fair to compare the action of police in USA and in Hong Kong, the context is quite different. For all I know, the HK protesters are very orderly and peaceful. They don’t have weapons (cf in USA, that why American police shot), there are no looting (have you ever seen people using their own money to buy so many resources for a common cause? People spent good money from their own pocket supporting this movement), protester were cleaning graffiti of government buildings, sweeping the street, sorting rubbish for recycling. In fact, I was quite shocked to observed that many protesters were walking at the correct directions of the road as it was meant to be for cars after they had it blocked off! If this is a bunch of mobs, I think civilisation is quite dead.

    It all drives at a greater issue being police officers are the only government personnel who are facing the public. All the politicians and government official when into hiding or making provocative statements during press conferences. It is unfortunate that police officers got targeted, but in the present situation, it seems regrettable that such a result seems inevitable.

    1. Thanks for your comments and analysis Arthur. As I agree with you it mainly shows that my writing skills need improvement as the point of the letter was not what you got – but I’ve had so many comments in this direction that only if you sat through all of my answers would you see what I was trying to say. I will work on my presentation skills for the next one 🙂

      1. Not at all, this is a very good article. I just felt so strongly that I needed to leave a comment before reading the very interesting conversation here. Deliberation like this is what sorely needed in this city at the moment.

  20. After reading your letter and all the replies I wonder how old are all these people, how many of them are local who really spend their entire life in Hong Kong, watching the evolve of the city in the last few decades. If you have to discuss the relationship between police and Hong Kong citizen, you must start from the 60’s then you will see the changes in 70’s and 80’s. That’s a really important period for you to understand the love and hate between police and Hong Kong citizen. Just look at the few years after 2010 isn’t a full picture. It is true that some resentment to the police force was brought from the past eras, the resentment was not formed just in the last few years. I’m a 50 year old Hong Konger, I was born here and had my education here in Hong Kong and I watch all the changes so if you like to discuss this tropic you must know the history (probably not from any textbook). You have to talk to local people, the older ones, the working classes, housewives and I’m sure you will find some valuable information. Moreover Cantonese is a very interesting dialect, translation can’t interpret the true meaning most of the times. I wish you could understand Cantonese so you could have a first hand feeling of what people are trying to express. When you understand Cantonese and our history, you will find some great points to refine your letter. After all, I appreciate your heart and effort and patiently replied every comment one by one.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Scott – a very valuable one no doubt. I’m sure that 50 years of personal experience in this city will give a lot more “color” and understanding of the reactions and interplay between the police and public. I too would love to be fluent in Cantonese but I’m not sure that will be accomplished this lifetime… I could probably make my open letter more politically correct, but in a very emotional topic such as this one, I’m afraid that there will always be one group of people that will take offense, especially from a gweilo that didn’t grow up here. But the point of my open letter is not to defend or take a stand as to what is right and wrong as far as the police or the political situation. I’m simply trying to appeal to people to stop using insults and generalizations and start showing more tolerance, respect and understanding.

      1. I’m sure you have enough listening from the police side but not quite enough from the local. That’s why some people still feel offensive from your viewpoints. You may heard protesters insulting police these days but every story have two sides. You may see one side but you probably can’t see the other side in your expat circle. If you really mean what you mean in your letter, I encourage you to start observe the world outside.And this is the only way you can be totally neutral in this case.

      2. Scott, how do you know how much or little I do observe? I can see both sides just fine and it should be clear from all my responses that I’m not trying to take some stand as far as the public versus the police. The large amount of feedback here also gives me a pretty good idea of the variety of views which I am able to objectively take in. Thank you.

      3. hahaha bingo! you are not as open-minded as you think you are.

  21. Ulf, thanks so much for your honest and sincere open letter, which offers more perspective to what’s happening in Hong Kong now. Like you have have been living in many places for long time though born and raised in Hong Kong. I mostly live in Phuket in the past 10 years or so and have some Swedish friends like you, I feel most Swedish are quality citizens with good attitude. Please understand that what you saw last night was part of the story, no one can see the be picture, but please assured that Hong Kong are also full of quality citizens with good attitude, those protesters yelled “shame on police” are not the majority and most likely provoked by each others (will call it “it takes two hands to clap”). By far, most citizens (some may call them “protesters”) are very self-disciplined and respect each other, and this is why you don’t see people throw a single bottle, if any, to the police after they unnecessarily fired the tear gas to the crowd (I hope no one will consider it is necessary just because the crowd want to move forward to the protest place).

    1. Thanks Brendan. Yes, it takes two to tango. I am sure the majority of protesters were/are peaceful and are just trying to have their voice heard. I may not have said it in a good way in my open letter as some perceive it as biased. I was more trying to explain a phenomena which I think is detrimental to the situation, including that of the success of the protesters.

  22. […] to do. This includes (a) criticizing civil disobedience as an “ineffective” tool; (b) dictating tactics for political reform; and (c) telling people how unproductive their emotions are. Here’s […]

  23. Thank you for your open letter to Hong Kong. What I see on fb is that those made statements on supporting the police or even only not opposing the police are criticized by others. No contrary opinions are accepted. News on blaming police are spread. And until now I cannot find any news media is really impartial on this issue. All I see are hatred and anger towards the police and government. I don’t think the police and government did everything right, I am sure they can do better in order to disperse the crowds. However at the same time I don’t think the protesters did everything correct too, fighting for democracy is absolutely right, occupying public area is definitely breaching the law. They can’t use fighting for democracy as an excuse or slogan to do anything that are illegal. I even saw protesters arguing with the pedestrian who asked them to leave. However due to the huge differences of the number of people, the pedestrian was asked to leave by the protesters. Why can this kind of thing can be happened? The protesters advocated that roads are public areas, they are belonged to all Hong Kong citizens, so why they can force the pedestrian to leave?

    I only hope that both sides can rethink what they are doing and admit when they did wrong. Not only criticizing the other sides. The genuine democracy I really hope for includes toleration, discussion, concessions, and then agreement. Not endless fighting and dispute.

    Sorry for my poor English.

  24. Upon reading your “An Open Letter to Hong Kong”, I came across this “Broken Windows” by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling: Just dropping you a line to support your “open letter”.

  25. thanks for your article and it does tell what i think, especially at the time of political extreme. nothing much to say, just hope the people can stand at their opposite sides to think and aim at the right people who should be blamed.
    truly apperciated.

  26. Thank you.

  27. I want to applaud and support the police for all their work during these trying times. the firing of tear gas was totally justified in my view as the protesters were charging at the police and the police had order to hold the line so they had to do that with minimal force, and that is to fire tear gas, instead of cracking heads or firing rubber bullets. I would like to ask all the leaders of the pan democrats who are now using this tear gas incident to bolster up their support,what they would have done if they had been in the police shoes? Please remember that it is the easiest thong to do to point and accuse but no so easy if one were in the other party’s role. I would also like to point out that had a similar situation happened elsewhere, even in the US, police night sticks would have been used and heads would have already been cracked opened! If you do not want this to happen, do not charge at the police, knock and poke them with your umbrellas, hurl unspeakable foul insults at them ad throw thing at them. The claimed that the police attacked the protesters “who do not have an inch of iron on them” is therefore false as there are news film clips showing the protesters knocking and poking at the police with their umbrellas.

    I also deplore the fact that this so-called pro-democratic movement is robbing the rights and freedom of the majority of the population of Hong Kong by denying us the use of public roads and facilities which we have the right ti use. How can this be a fight for the rights of the population of Hong Kong when it robs the rights of others who do not agree with their cause? I cannot agree that this is a fight for democracy, but I view it as a call to anarchy!

    In conclusion, just like in the movie “Network”, i want to say that “I am mad as hell, and do not want to take this any more!”

  28. It may seems silly for me to say all the way from the US
    But I really appreciate this post.

    Its interesting to read someone’s thoughts who is living first hand there and enduring
    these protests as well as recognizing the issues with them.

    thank you for educating me a little bit today.

  29. Totally agree with you. In my mind, Hong Kong police force is one of the best in the world. Likewise, HK protesters are the most peaceful and polite in the world.

    I live overseas, and I didn’t know about these physical conflicts that happened until late at night when I opened my FB.

    I was very surprised when my FB were, like yours, flooded with insults and anger aimed at policemen, videos edited to show only the parts where the police did their wrong doings. Nobody showed some parts where some protesters threw bottles at policemen who were just passing by, unarmed, unshielded, until today. (Best thing that came after was that some other protesters protected the policemen from those throwing the bottles)

    I’m kinda sad that even some of my friends think that the police is the demon. They’re the scum. They don’t deserve to live. They should quit their job. They’re just robots, manipulated from the top.

    Well.. how about the protesters? I can be 100% sure that not 100% of the protesters even know what they’re really there for. Sure, most of them do. But I’m also sure that some students are there because their classmates are there. Hey, no classwork, no school and no effect on grades! What have they got to lose~!?

    I’m not saying all of them does this, but let’s just admit that like any group of people, there must be some that are not saints. Some that can get easily angered / emotional and turn physical.

    Anyway, I’m just repeating what you’ve written…… so basically I agree!!

  30. I definitely agree that the police force should not be the main attention of opposition in this situation, and it is a pity to hear about how some people are taking this negative view too far (e.g. shop owners not serving police officers). But this is also because the police is the direct representative of the government during the last couple of days. NONE of the government officials have addressed the public directly, but only holding one way communication press conferences with statements that didn’t help the situation but instead fueling the public’s negativity more. The people at Admiralty, Causeway Bay and MongKok now, had only the police officials to “talk to”, and so the emotions will be directed towards them.

  31. Your article seems horribly imbalanced to me. Riot police hit, sprayed and fired teargas at unarmed, peaceful protesters. I’m sure you can make all kinds of reasonable caveats to that – yes, most police are good people; surely, some protesters said things they shouldn’t. But we mustn’t confuse relative footnotes to the main story.

    I was present at government buildings during much of Saturday afternoon until 5am Sunday, then in Harcourt Rd / Gloucester Rd much of Sunday afternoon/evening. What I witnessed was innocent, unarmed, mostly young people making super-human efforts to stay peaceful under unequivocally excessive police violence.

    Your own video shows protesters facing ranks of riot police and police vans and doing nothing more than holding their hands up to demonstrate they were unarmed – indeed, one student is seen trying to offer a flower to the police (something you claim not to have witnessed). Even when the police still fired teargas and pepper spray at them, they were provoked into no violence. My Cantonese is poor, but I can clearly hear them shouting back “Shame on you police!” – hardly unreasonable. The police should indeed feel ashamed. This accords with what I saw with my own eyes: protesters repeatedly, incredibly, keeping calm under intense, disproportionate intimidation and violence.

    At this time, when the wounds are so fresh, what the police did last weekend deserves clear, unambiguous condemnation. On the other side, both the cause and the behaviour of the protesters deserves unequivocal praise. Full stop. All other points, such as long term crime trends or duration of police working hours, the comfort level of their riot gear, or any extreme social media commentary, are wholly beside the point.

    1. Dan, when I made the comment about the flower, I had not yet seen that video. I agree with many things you say and it is my own observation as well that since the main clashes stopped, the very large majority of protesters are very commendably calm. Statements such as “Shame on you police” are not the kind of statements I’m referring to. I however completely disagree that the actions of the police were “intense, disproportionate intimidation and violence”. In comparison to what? A peace protest at the flowers market? Yes, there was excessive and uncalled for force and that should be addressed. But give your description to a citizen of pretty much any other country and city in the world and see what they think of it…

  32. Dear Ulf, so many thanks for your sharing! I cannot agree more.

  33. It seems that people are upset with the government leaders more than the police!! Most know who gave the orders to the police……and at least some protesters acted as “mediators” between the police and other protesters, saying that the police is NOT our enemy, and also saying to the police that those [protesters] are only [unarmed] students…” etc…My hat is off to those “mediators”!

  34. It’s unfortunate that your newsfeed was flooded by people condemning the police solely. That’s not how my newsfeed looks like, nor many of my friends’. A lot of the people from Hong Kong know exactly where the real problems lie. They are taking to the street peacefully, or boycotting class and work, to demand genuine democratic election. I saw that you acknowledged and saluted these people who aren’t there simply there to protest against the police. But this is why I take issue with the title of your post: “An Open Letter to Hong Kong”, as if every one in Hong Kong hurls insults and criticisms at Hong Kong police. Yes, there are people out there like that, and you have the freedom of speech to address your letter to them, but please identify your target audience.

    1. Glad to hear that. Nobody would be happier than I if I was 100% wrong, as that would mean that people at large are tolerant and respectful and don’t buy into propaganda manipulation.

  35. Connie Ngai · · Reply

    I agreed that most Chinese-blood are not logical but very emotional and they are easily distracted to nowhere by emotional issues. The problems is lots of uncivilized Chinese immigrate here and make the society even worse. You can’t tell from what background that impolite youngster is from. Hong Kong people is like a pot of water that can never be boiled because of the new cool water pumping in everyday. Hong Kong still looks good because of our past education. However, the underlying judiciary system, our values, the quality of people, our respectful police and civil servants are all being undermined gradually like a frog in the gradual boiled water.

    1. Connie, I don’t think locals are not logical. Humans anywhere are emotional when they feel threatened. In some cases however views here have a tendency to be somewhat narrow-minded and in those cases it can help to broaden their perspective, if they are so willing of course.

    2. And this comment shows how racist and Hong Kong people are, against mainland people. That is truly very “educated” of you. (this is meant to be sarcastic btw)

  36. This message is for officer Nigel Ho. …
    Officer. ..its emotionally and physically exhausting time for us all. After all is not a small issue or force we are standing up against. This has everything to do with how your and mine future including our children future will be decided. I am not from Hong Kong but have been living here for last 15 years. I call it home. It’s my home. And i don’t want to see it going from best to bad. NOO! !! And you know why it’s the best best best place in the world to live. It’s the people that makes the place. The people here are highly civilised, well mannered, well educated and follow law and order like no other place in the world does. And policemen like you come from that strong ethics society background and we see you walking the streets doing your job with so much diligence, dignity, responsibility, humility, and efficiency. Every time I see you guys on the streets can’t help but smile inside with feelings of pride. That’s how big of a star you are for us that you make Hollywood bad cops look like little sqeaking babies.

    Now the issue is about the demands of the protesters. And the clash with the police force.
    -Please go easy on them as they are fighting for your and mine freedom.
    -I know it’s not easy on you nor is it easy for them.
    -I know you have your orders to follow as well, but what when the order is to change the way you and live and think.
    -Hong Kong is has best citizens and system in the world and it has excellent financial status.
    -So why Beijing would want to change perfectly working system.

    It’s funny just few days back I was defending Beijing saying they are very smart and would not change a perfectly functioning and no 1 profitable state system just to prove a lame point: Power

    Thank you to all HK citizens and armed forces for working as hard as you do to create this wonderful city. I am doing my part. And we shall continue.

  37. I understand that you have lots of experience in the US and in Sweden, but I don’t see you comparing with the Swedish police. If the Swedish people staged an occupation, could the Swedish police use teargas and pepper spray against them, or point guns (loaded with rubber rather than real) bullets at them?

    You show empathy for the police officers, who do deserve it. They don’t have an easy job. However, you don’t show much empathy for the protestors, who are NOT used to their police force behaving in this way. Hong Kong has had many protests. Police do not behave like this here. Occupy Central did give a lot of warning about this – yes, they said they would start on Wednesday, not Sunday, but the police had months to figure out their tactics.

    The very fundamental point is that the protestors were not violent. When the police threw the tear gas, some protestors threw water bottles, but were stopped by other protestors. When the police officers used pepper spray, the protestors yelled. Yes, there was a lot of shouting at the police, but that doesn’t normally happen here. They were reacting to the police use of force, which was unnecessary.

    What disturbed me a little about your post was your relativism: the fact that US police are brutal does not mean Hong Kong people should just be happy they have less brutal police. Hong Kong doesn’t have guns, we don’t accept the kind of things Americans accept from their police.

    As you might have observed yesterday, left to themselves the protestors were all peaceful. They cleaned up after themselves, shared food and water etc.

    You may not agree with the reasons for Occupy Central, but there are reasons why they have decided to take this tactic, mainly because this is a point in which they still can do this without being killed by the Chinese police and military. If you don’t appreciate your freedoms, you lose them.

    1. If the exact same scenario had occurred in Sweden, well, first off, the rules regarding public assembly are much more strict and many aspects of this protests would not have been allowed in the first place. Second, it is of course only a matter of conjecture to say how the Swedish police force would have reacted, but based on recent protest rallies against the “Nazi” party in Sweden (called Sweden democrats) the police actions were much more severe than HK, but, the protesters were also much more violent and out of control than the HK protesters have been.

      As I experienced much hatred and insults against the police my letter have a tendency to cover that more, but it is not a reflection of my personal opinion of either the police or the protesters. I have empathy for any police officer and any protester that are using common sense without reacting, showing tolerance and respect and standing up for what they think is right! Your attitude to not use relative comparisons is exactly what I disagree with, but if you don’t it creates a narrow-minded view on things. It is one thing to compare things in HK to the same thing at an earlier time, but that is not the full picture unless you also compare it to the rest of the world. How can you make truly rational decisions if you compare only those things in the bubble instead of the entire pond, as the entire pond can and will affect the bubble – whether the bubble agrees or not…

    2. so it is perfectly fine to illegally congregate and hijack the economy…..if they are civilized and polite about it. I see.

  38. Excellent article. I am a Hong Kong native – raised in Canada and now working in California. Compared to what I’ve seen here (i.e., Oakland riots and various police brutality), the HK police has been very disciplined. If it was here in the US there would have been deaths already.

    Having said that, I’m not saying the excessive force used by the HK police is justified. It was stupid to do so as it triggers more anger over the HK people

    It looks like this is going to end up in a deadlock between the pro-democracy camp and the government as the real issues aren’t being addressed. These protests are quickly closing the little negotiation room HK had with the mainland. Last I check China has very little reasons to actually compromise (militarily, economically, etc.). Negotiation and progressive reforms is what HK needs (and potentially act as a model for reforms for the Mainland). If anything this event may push Beijing to further tighten security and media control over HK.

    As for people wanting a “revolution”, it sends shivers down my spine. HK people will gain nothing out of it. HK’s success is built on rule of law and stability. Every time there’s a revolution there’s guaranteed to be a bloodbath, and I’m not sure what chances HK people will stand against the PLA. Toppling of a government almost never ends well. Look no further to Egypt or Syria as a recent example. Its saddening how these people can overlook the peace and blessing HK has in the last 100 years. Not many places on earth have these kinds of privileges.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Ron.

  39. Fully agreed with your good and objective observation !

  40. Ah I forgot to add, guns are not popular in HK because they use knives. Just recently a man was attacked and slashed and stabbed at.

    Like I said, you seem to know little to nothing about Chinese society. A bit surprising since you’ve spent quite a few years there already.

    1. What’s surprising to me is how quickly you came to judge what I know or don’t know.

  41. I’d like to point out two things.

    You never hear gunshots because guns are not popular in Hong Kong. That does not mean there is little to no crime. Believe me, there is plenty of crime committed by triads there. However, HK police cannot do much about it as the triads are linked to mainland politicians. Please feel free to read all about this.

    Secondly, you are a white man living in China/Hong Kong. Of course you’re going to be treated politely by the police there. Chinese people may be more aggressive towards each other, but many of them will not dare to start a fight with a westerner. Some of you may argue with this, but it is true.

    Furthermore, the people are angry because they have trusted the police force so much, yet they have been getting worse in recent years. The public are furious that police are just firing pepper spray willy nilly, even at aid workers of the Red Cross and ambulance staff. That is absolutely not acceptable. This is indeed about wanting democracy, but now the people are equally as angry that their own trusted HK police force are treating them this way.

    You seem to judge this situation from a Westerners eyes, and you know little about the background of it all. Nor have you learnt much about HK people as well as the way their minds work in your 4 years of living there. How judgemental.

    1. You’re quite judgmental yourself Tsui – just saying…

  42. billy yeung · · Reply

    Thx for yr sharing. Agreed that many articles were attacking the hk police in a vigorous way. I was not there on the street n thats why I cant judge their actions were right or wrong. But I do believe there are no one single piece of article or report can give the full story on that night. The worst thing is that ppl are criticizing each other with no respect. HK ppl are divided. I do prefer a more organized way to fight for what they want. Jumping from 0 to 1 may not be the best possible way to the development of HK.

    1. Billy YUNG · · Reply

      Agreed. Chinese proverb 君子和而不同. “Gentlemen stay well even with different views.” Mutual Respect is very important in the society.

  43. Geoffrey Cheng · · Reply

    QUOTE I am not however going to address the right or wrong doing of the Hong Kong police force as far more qualified people than I can do so. I am going to address that targeting the police instead of the real issues, the real targets, will get Hong Kong and its citizen absolutely nowhere UNQUOTE You invalidate yourself by focusing on the secondary issue. By the same token, you can also argue the demonstration has caused troubles to everyone and forget about what is right or wrong in the first place. Read the media coverage like the Independent , we are being lauded as the most “polite” demonstration. Now your article is being quoted by most to support police – thank you for that !!! Your article only serve to put the police and the public on the opposite end. And please do not revise your original article – this is dishonest esp. if your article has been manipulated to such extent. Those in need of English-written article/web-log to support police need your article so badly !!

    1. I don’t fully understand what you’re getting at. No revisions on my article changed how I think, only modified how I presented it as some understood it in a different way than I intended.

  44. Hong Kong Lifer · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Hong Kong Lifer and commented:
    Different perspective.

  45. At the same time, many understand the police are doing their jobs and acting for the overall wellbeing of Hong Kong, as they are trying to prevent Beijing from sending military troops to HK. Most messages being passed around ask protesters to be calm and polite. Slangs and slurs were used and they shouldn’t had been used, but most importantly, almost all people understand clearly that their target is CY Leung and not the police.

    1. Glad to hear!

  46. Hi Ulf,

    I am fully aware of the ultimate goal of the current movement – political reform towards an electoral system that more fully embodies democracy. I do not doubt for a second this is a wish that will not be granted to the people of Hong Kong, yet it is admirable so many people still refuse to give in. We can all agree with this.

    I have no doubt whatsoever CY Leung is a weak leader. He is still hiding behind his desk and not owning up to all his erroneous decisions, both in the past and these few days, that have led to an increasingly and highly polarised society. He needs to go for his costly mistakes, but in the grand scheme of things, this is merely a secondary objective of the movement over greater democracy.

    With the important things cleared, I want to discuss explicitly further on

    ” I do know that this debate is not something media and social media should carry out AGAINST the police who patrol our streets day in and day out for a relatively low pay. That debate should be directed towards those responsible to make decisions.

    If we continue to only blame the police the outcome contains no winners. The correct targets are the senior officers, the politicians and those they answer to. As I mentioned before, what I observed yesterday and still am observing through social media is this social contagion where a large portion of the public is following the apparently socially correct attitude – hate the cops! Wrong target!”

    It is not fruitful now for the movement to point fingers, but since nothing is happening on the mob and on the government’s side anyway, and there needs to be a time for justice to be eventually brought up and why not now while we wait for CY Leung.

    It is undeniable that, when guns are pointed at, and chemical weapons are hurled at, an unarmed, slowly moving crowd presenting no physical, not to mention life-endangering, harm to any human beings, crimes against humanity are committed. This is because of the lack of sympathy for we are born equal in sensation towards physical pain and fear. Those who order such crimes be committed, and those who commit the crimes must be held individually responsible. If gang members in Central pointed guns at you and me while we are congregating peacefully despite warnings they give, they have committed a crime against humanity and this cannot be tolerated in the slightest. Any defence on his side appealing for understanding that they have merely been ordered by superior to point the gun at me is almost surely turned a deaf ear to by any judges, and appropriate punishment need to be handed out accordingly. You could easily expect a reaction and a strong response from conscious members of the public to subsequently condemn gangs in general – ‘hate the gang!’. This would seem quite natural to me as part of humanity – one trait is the strong desire to protect fellow beings – and I don’t expect you to point out ‘wrong target!’ and ask for smartness to pinpoint anger at the gang leader and not the organization. Why? because gangs are in general known to be bad and people would not think there is a necessary distinction between the individual gang member and the organization. Also, it is normal to fear that if one member can act this way, other members with access to similar weapons may easily have been ordered or given permission to act too. This is about the actions of individuals, while almost never an accurate representation of the organization, instigating quite validly much wider suspicion, fear and anger towards the organization.

    If you replace gang member with police front line staff in the above paragraph, it is what happened a few days ago. The police, as various commenters have mentioned to you already, has seen a dramatic slide in their reputation and trustworthiness to one of the lowest points in their history of Hong Kong, and despite all the good work that they do (my father is a Marine police who saved tens of lives in the shipwreck a few years back, if you were already living in HK), they have come to be regarded as not the people’s guardians anymore. This may not be rational, but as you mentioned, what happened happened and this is the situation we are in. Hence, when the constables threw the canisters, criticism and abuse are hurled at the organization indiscriminately as per the mechanism I outlined above. I am actually glad the social contagion took place, for crime against humanity cannot be tolerated in the slightest and must be condemned as soon as it takes place and as strongly as you can condemn, whether you are in Hong Kong or Israel or Crimea or Iraq or LA.

    As to if any of the front line police actions can be sympathized because “you had been standing outside for 12-14 hours in 30 degrees heat in full uniform trying to do your job while getting berated by verbally abusive people for hours”, my answer is a resolute NO, when you have weapons in your hand that are made only to hurt. I am startled that a wise and kind man as you seem from the writing that you would ask for sympathy for the policemen on this ground.

    As to who should we cleverly blame, sure, as I mentioned right from the beginning, CY Leung along with any police officials in the command chain who could have prevented the event should step down and in my view should be trialled, much like the disobedient civilians should be, for their explicit approval of the inhumanitarian attack carried out by their subordinates. And the ones who actually carried out the order is by no means, as in the gang example, free from the legal responsibility of the crimes they have committed with their own hands. They are all criminals against humanity. Okay, I am not a judge, but it doesn’t take a judge to see when one person points a gun at another person.

    It was in my wish that attention and justice be brought against the offenders of crimes against humanity. that I contributed to the social contagion that you apparently disdain in your question of the usefulness and correctness of such response. I don’t hate the police, for my own father is a great one, and I love all human beings around me , but absolutely abhor any kinds of crime against humanity.

    So while I remember the exact nature of the battle the HK people are fighting, and I know as you said that pointing fingers at what happened will not get us closer to democracy, I disagree with your view on 1) correctness of social contagion, 2) we should stop condemning the police, 3) the front line policemen are merely taking orders and hence should be shielded from any criticism, and ultimately prosecution. I continue to protest for democracy, but should the police deploy inappropriate force again, I have no doubt that I will once again, and it is right, to contribute to the social contagion very swiftly and strongly.

    1. Thanks for so explicitly laying out your views Keith. We don’t look at things in the same way, but I respect your belief. Me bringing up the conditions of the police has nothing to do with my sympathy for the police. I’m not very sympathetic at all, but merely was appealing to understand their side a bit better instead of just being considered monsters. I do understand that there are reasons for HK people to be angry and it is not just human and a given. I’m not against speaking up for what I believe is right – quite the opposite. I’m mainly appealing to reason for both sides while doing what you’re doing without taking a political stance. Had this comment section not been so overwhelmingly long, I would I have happily discussed more of my actual views on the political side but we will have to do that at another time.

      1. PeterParker · · Reply

        “I’m glad I wasn’t one of the policemen that got charged. Not because several of them got hurt and had to be given immediate medical attention. But if I had been charged by an angry crowd after enduring 12 hours of public berating in the sun, I know one thing – I had seconds to make my decisions. In those seconds I may not have had time to go through all the politically correct protocols but I would react pretty much on instinct and I would have most likely not made the most objective decision if I was angry as well.”

        I’m glad you’re not a policeman as well. Is your argument really based on “if you were standing there for hours in the heat you’d have done the same?” Does that make it right? I can’t even believe you mentioned that if this was Florida, these protesters would have been shot.

        How bout, if this was 1989 in Tiananmen Square, tanks would’ve rolled over you students already, so be happy they only used tear gas!

        Wouldn’t you say that the police should be held to a higher standard than a regular citizen?

        “With great power comes great responsibility”. You are a grown man devoid of principles even kids understand.

        1. I’m sorry spiderman. I’ll try to do better next time.

  47. Ulf,
    Your observations are correct.
    I’m a locally born expat and being travelling and lived most of my life elsewhere. We share similar point-of-views.

    Hong Kong is definitely privileged in terms of freedom and human rights, in contrast to many of the “democratic” countries in lived.

    Few tear gas going around is not brutal to me personally; HK citizens have always enjoyed in state of peace that they have no idea how situations could turn 180 degree in minutes. Most riots prelude in peace. The most important factor making this particular demonstration differing from those in the past is that, no applications were lodged thus making it illegal. People just do not understand, law is above all; even carrying out “peacefully” would not change the basis being illegal. (I’ve always been skeptical on the term “peaceful” from the mouth of protesters. Does that include verbal insults of police officers?)

    You are definitely correct that this protest is totally unorganized and protesters have lost its course of purpose. The whole situation became a punching bag for angry mobs. How surprising could it be when those so-called leaders out there are just irresponsible mobsters?! When asked by the media regarding this out-of-control situation; their reply was, the people in HK have now taken over and that it has nothing to do with them. Pardon my french, WTF?!?! They “activated” this protest and now it has nothing to do with them?

    I must go now. I’m leaving HK (again) in 2 weeks time. It will be a long while till I will settle back here again.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Martin.

  48. Were you there when they fire tear gas at the protesters? did you happen to have sniffed it in? did you see how they treat our unarmed youngsters? they move from location to location every 20 mins in vehicles and have hot packed meals. (we saw and felt the boxes because they accidentally left a whole box on the side of the road) while protesters like us shared lumps of bread between us and remained in the same location, taking rests on hot concrete tar ground in our raincoats and masks. being tired is no excuse for not thinking straight. we as protesters kept calm and stopped every one on our side from insulting the police IN THE HEAT. did you not see that or you decided to turn a blind eye on it? i know the police is doing what they are told to do but do they not have brains? do they not have feelings? when asked to use unnecessary violence against protesters they should have refused and point out that is not just. it is not professional to just obey orders.

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