Former anti-crime undercover investigator argues the police need to get on top of the threat of a permanent insurgency hardcore that will take any cause at hand.
Photo credit: Samuel Chan
Like most people in Hong Kong, I was celebrating Chinese New Years festivities with family and friends, knowing that numerous men and women were working diligently and selflessly to ensure the rest of us could enjoy this wonderful time of year. This includes, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, sanitation workers and many more.
Like many fellow citizens of Hong Kong, I was shocked at the brutality and ferocity of what appeared to be a well planned, and orchestrated attack against Hong Kong Government in Mong Kok, on the evening of February 8th. There should be no mistake – this was a cleverly managed and staged assault with a clearly defined outcome in mind. This was not a mere spontaneous act of civil disobedience over fish balls, or lack thereof. This was an act of violent insurrection that was designed to further a political agenda and embarrass the Hong Kong Government, rather than to support the rights of hawkers.
elected officials and community leaders would better serve their constituents if they focused less on semantics and political posturing, and paid attention to…a dangerous precedent
While I was not present in Mong Kok to observe the mayhem first hand, I did view the many videos that were posted on social media and video captured by mainstream media. I have also had the benefit of hindsight, reading some of the commentary that has come out since. As expected, depending on which side of the political divide is being represented there are very divergent views as to what occurred this past Monday evening. I hold no political view regarding the Hong Kong Government, but I do know that once again, the police are the cannon fodder to be abused and attacked for upholding the rule of law in a civil society.
Not about fishballs
the intelligence either lacked sufficient specificity for action or was not analysed effectively, thus causing the police to be ill prepared
I can’t help but be bemused by the insipid comments debating whether the violence in Mong Kok constitutes a riot or not. Perhaps elected officials and community leaders would better serve their constituents if they focused less on semantics and political posturing, and paid attention to what may become a dangerous precedent, namely the violent ambushing of innocent police officers. If this 12 hour sustained assault against Hong Kong Government that left more than 40 police officers with injuries of varying severity, is truly about fishballs and the enforcement of City by-laws, then what does that say about the mindless depravity of Hong Kong people? Should we accept that traffic wardens should expect a pummeling for ticketing illegally parked vehicles? I do not believe whatsoever, that this is typical behaviour of Hong Kong people. I do believe however, that this behavior is typical of those who have the objective to foment a form of insurgency and social disorder.
anarchists live in Hong Kong, and as such they become perfect foot soldiers for higher thinking individuals who have a different political agenda
A critical eye of the events would note that police have acknowledged picking up intelligence in the days preceding Chinese New Years, that some type of trouble was being planned for Mong Kok on New Years. Unfortunately, the intelligence either lacked sufficient specificity for action or was not analysed effectively, thus causing the police to be ill prepared for the violence that was to ensue. The speed at which a large crowd of predominantly young males, many with masks, and many already armed with items to throw or to ward off police countermeasures, is strongly indicative of pre-planning and coordination. That there may have been spontaneous support for the hawkers when the police and by-laws officers moved in to enforce the removal of unlicensed vendors is not especially surprising. The planners of this night of mayhem followed the “Insurgency for Dummies Handbook” very effectively, by recognizing that a grassroots populist “cause celebre”, would provide the perfect cover story for a violent attack against the Hong Kong Government and rule of law. That the first media on scene were those who already hold a strong reporting bias against the police and anything related to Beijing and Hong Kong Government, is either very convenient or very coincidental, depending on your political perspective.
Prepare for the inevitable
Every society has its share of anarchists and it seems every gathering of world leaders or G20 summits bring them scurrying from their holes as surely as a moth to the flame. It would be foolish for authorities in Hong Kong to not recognize that anarchists live in Hong Kong, and as such they become perfect foot soldiers for higher thinking individuals who have a different political agenda. For this reason, Hong Kong Police have to be open to the need to initiate long-term covert operations that are pure intelligence gathering in nature, regardless of the political overtones of such police activities.
The planners of this night of mayhem followed the “Insurgency for Dummies Handbook” very effectively
For several years in the early to mid 2000’s, I was the Officer in Charge of the only Federal policing unit in downtown Vancouver. In 2004, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Security Planning Team was co-located in my office. History had taught us that major planned events such as the Olympics attract political agitators – or worse – who are not shy to use violence to achieve a political objective. Accordingly, police and intelligence agencies must begin preparing years in advance to either recruit informants or to place covert operators within the broader diaspora of those individuals or groups, who mask themselves and their criminal objectives, behind whatever “cause” is convenient.
Problem: Success begets…standing down
Long-term intelligence gathering operations by police, unfortunately often come to a premature end, due to the fact that police become aware of ongoing criminality or of a future planned criminal act and are thus statutorily obligated to take action to prevent such an act from occurring. Hong Kong Government would do well to consider providing legal exemption or protection for those police officers that are engaged in long-term intelligence gathering operations, such that a reasonable level of criminality is tolerated, thereby protecting the integrity of what may be a multi-year intelligence operation.
In closing, I must state that I am perplexed that it took over 10 hours before embattled police officers at the scene were provided with sufficient reinforcements to restore order. This is an intolerable situation in a city with a police force the size of Hong Kong and will surely cause some rank and file members to openly question the leadership and to ask… “what happened?”
Hong Kong Government would do well to consider providing legal exemption or protection for those police officers that are engaged in long-term intelligence gathering operations, such that a reasonable level of criminality is tolerated, thereby protecting the integrity of what may be a multi-year intelligence operation
Lastly, I am heartened that the overwhelming majority of the public has rallied behind their police officers, some of whom were subjected to a high degree of violence and brutality on what should have been a fun, joyful evening for all citizens of Hong Kong. Police officers are paid to serve and protect…they are not paid to be spit upon, bludgeoned with bricks and rocks, set alight, swarmed and viciously kicked even as they lay unconscious on the ground, nor are they paid to be maimed, blinded or even killed. I would like to extend a genuine thank you to the Hong Kong Police for sacrificing their family time so that my family and I could enjoy a safe and joyful Chinese New Year.