Mong Kok in Kowloon is a major shopping and residential mix of old area in Hong Kong.The area is dotted with dubious entertainment area attracting triad run bars, nightclubs, massage parlours and brothels. Last year at the “Occupy” movement protests in Mong Kok was one hub of the fiercest protests testing police control.
The District Councillor politicians have for the last two years called for a non-tolerance policy to curb the unlicensed hawker fast food often considered unhygienic. Previously, little action was taken against hawkers during the New Year holidays.
From the night of Chinese New Year of the Monkey 8 February 2016 until the next morning civil unrest occurred again in Mong Kok,
Similar minor hawker conflicts occurred at an estate in Tuen Mun district. A group of men dressed in dark jackets with "manager" printed on the backs intimidating residents and hawkers.
The Mong Kok incident on 8 February during the Chinese New Year holidays escalated from a Food Environment Health Department (FEHD) poorly planned clearance on unlicensed street hawkers. A group known as the ‘Indigenous’ called for action online to support the hawkers. By around 9 pm a few hundred had gathered and verbally assaulted the FEHD officers. Things were turning nasty. Only six traffic police officers attended the growing incident and the police were totally outnumbered.
Many thousands of HK residents and tourists with a large number of police officers were deployed gathering at vantage points around the harbour waiting for the annual fireworks display. The clashes in Mong Kok between protests and the police became increasingly ugly. One traffic officer fired two warning pistol shots.The bullets could have ricochet anywhere. The unworried inflamed protesters continued to throw glass bottles, bricks, flower pots for ammunition and trash bins were set fires in the streets.
The protestors were particularly savage and the police, as usual the meat in the sandwich, were being beaten back until heavy police reinforcements arrived leaving nearly 130 people – including around 90 police officers received injuries and eighty persons arrested.
Mong Kok being a well known trouble and tinderbox hub it seems police intelligence units and informers were asleep and wanting? An independent enquiry could well come to the conclusion the senior police hierarchy deployment and preparedness over the period was lacking in judgement! The professional police force was caught napping and outfoxed by an emotional unruly mob.
The HK government lamely flatly rejected holding an independent public inquiry into the civil unrest as was done in the 1966 Star Ferry riots. The 1966 hearings and investigation were conducted in public parallel with the court proceedings for those arrested during the protests.
Despite calls by hundreds of academics and professionals for an independent committee to look into the causes of the mayhem the government stuck their heads into the sand ostrich style to avoid blame.
Police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung announced that a "full investigation" will be held. An internal police enquiry is certainly needed to examine the poor deployment and lack of preparedness together with the FEHD. Even frontline police officers were disappointed with their senior management that left more than 90 officers wounded.“What does he need to investigate, one said? As a sop to the police Rank & File the Commissioner dispersed 250 awards like confetti upon them. One has every sympathy for the police difficult task facing frustrated unruly violent behaviour. Those arrested and charged must face the rule of law and the consequences for their actions.
The increasingly dysfunctional administration weakness seems the central government and departments are desperately avoiding criticism in their own failing to identify the reasons of the mayhem?
The root problem of the protestors unruly behaviour has to be first ascertained as it was in the 1966 public enquiry to prevent similar incidents.
“JIngtian Qinmin” - Revere Heaven and serve the people?