A police community relations officer has said that the term “cockroach” – used by police to describe protesters – could be interpreted as a compliment. But another top police public relations officer later said that it was not ideal for the force to use such terms.

Police community relations officer Tam Yu-hei was speaking on the RTHK programme “Hong Kong Connection” which was aired on Monday. He said the public should not over-interpret terms used by the police.

Tam Yu-hei
Tam Yu-hei. Photo: RTHK.

“Aren’t cockroaches full of life, and they can survive in harsh conditions?” Tam said. “Just like some people called us dogs… is it to say that our colleagues are loyal and obedient?”

Police Public Relations Branch Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen said at a regular press briefing on Monday that he did not watch the programme in detail: “It is not ideal to use any term to label a group of people,” he said.

“After six months of conflict, there may be emotions. We will tell our colleagues to maintain emotional management as best as they can,” he added.

He said he hoped people can respect each other ahead of Christmas.

Sunday demo

Meanwhile, the police said it was a misunderstanding to think that police intentionally disrupted a peaceful rally, referring to an incident at a Sunday protest.

edinburgh place December 22 uyghur rally police

Officers clashed with onlookers after arresting a protester who removed a Chinese national flag outside City Hall. Police Public Relations Branch Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung said there was clearly an offence of insulting the national flag.

He said officers were there to enforce the law but they were attacked and an officer took out a service pistol, pointing it at protesters in order to protect themselves.

“We did not try to intervene in the so-called peaceful rally. If it is a peaceful rally, why would someone remove the national flag? If it is a peaceful rally, why would someone attack the police?” he said.

He asked the public not to allow violence to continue.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.