What has got into Mr Lam Chi-wai? Mr Lam is the chairperson of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, to which most policemen belong. He had his allotted 15 minutes of fame last September when he suggested that his members should feel free to shoot protesters who threw petrol bombs.

He is, I suppose, subject to the general policy of the Force that members should not engage in political issues generally. Mr Lam enjoys an exemption from that as far as his union work is concerned, but why is he suddenly participating in matters which have nothing to do with his members?

Junior Police Officers’ Association Chair Lam Chi-wai. File photo: i-Cable screenshot.

Earlier this week Mr Ng Chau-pei, who is an NPC delegate and chairman of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trades Unions, attacked RTHK for running a story about the recent local lockdown in Mong Kok.

The reporter had, as any enterprising reporter might well do, booked into a guest house in the cordoned-off area and reported, among other things, that the food parcel supplied by the government included tins which required an opener, which he or she did not have to hand.

Mr Ng said this was “intentionally misleading” and an “abuse of power”. Well we expect this sort of thing from NPC delegates. Mr Ng in rabid form here. Anyway the point, such as it is, had been made. Enter Mr Lam to make it again. Mr Lam said RTHK had “hurt Hong Kong” by making disparaging comments on the food parcels issued to residents.

RTHK’s report on the contents of the food parcel. Photo: RTHK, via Facebook.

In a statement on Tuesday Mr Lam denounced as “political smearing” the publication by RTHK of a picture in which the tins did not appear to have ring pulls and said the reporter had deliberately distorted the picture. Other residents, he said, had found ring pulls on their tins.

Now we can deal with the substance of this complaint quite quickly. The government’s official description of its distributed items includes the information that 80 per cent of the tins had ring pulls and 20 per cent did not. Another media organisation found in a shop a can of luncheon meat identical to the one issued to the RTHK reporter. No ring-pull.

So it appears that this complaint is entirely without merit, as well as having the serious drawback of being pathetically trivial. The reporter was unlucky enough to get cans without ring-pulls. No dishonesty, political manipulation or abuse of power was involved.

RTHK is a target for government supporters these days but this is a pretty desperate effort to attack it. Perhaps it shows that, if I may borrow a quote from Mr Ng’s Facebook comments on the matter, “He who has a mind to beat his dog will easily find a stick.”

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Well no doubt Mr Ng is being encouraged by his imperial superiors to join the campaign against RTHK. But what about Mr Lam? This is not by any stretch of the imagination a police matter. If Mr Lam wishes to improve the work of Hong Kong media he could look nearer home and try to dissuade his members from shooting reporters in the face with rubber bullets.

It is difficult to believe that RTHK has “hurt Hong Kong” by revealing that some of the tins distributed to confined citizens did not have ring pulls. There is a serious danger of further harm to relations between the police and the media, though, if Mr Lam is going to set himself up as a one-man press council issuing judgements on the merits and accuracy of stories which have nothing to do with his duties, whether as a policeman or as a union leader.

Ironically it appears in fact that the RTHK reporter got the story right, and his critics discovered the hard way that factual reporting is not as easy as it looks. Some tins had ring-pulls; some did not. Some people were happy with their food, and some were not. This is ever the way with food. Everyone has an opinion. There is nothing surprising in this and nothing which will damage Hong Kong in any way.

Mr Lam’s reputation, on the other hand, now looks rather tatty. And that, in some people’s eyes, will rub off onto the police force, which has enough credibility problems already.


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Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett came to Hong Kong in 1980 to work for the Hong Kong Standard and has contributed to, or worked for, most of Hong Kong's English-language media outlets, notably as the editor of the Standard's award-winning investigative team, as a columnist in the SCMP and as a presenter of RTHK's Mediawatch. In 1988 he became a full-time journalism teacher. Since officially retiring nine years ago, he has concentrated on music, dance, blogging and a very time-consuming dog.