"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"A demand to know why we hadn't arrested a monkey for burglary led to a lengthy discussion on the law's applicability to our simian cousins."
I spent much time in district council meetings. My role as a district commander necessitated attendance each quarter. It was not unusual for the meetings to last six to eight hours as various departments answered questions, with each councillor keen to get a question in.
I had no issue with the lengthy meetings. It had one distinct advantage: the police came late on the agenda, so enthusiasm was flagging with councillors anxious to leave. So, unless a particular crime or policing subject gripped the council, I'd face only a few questions with long answers discouraged.
Still, this didn't stop challenging moments. For example, a demand to know why we hadn't arrested a monkey for burglary led to a lengthy discussion on the law's applicability to our simian cousins. Likewise, seeking to address a noise complaint arising from the dawn chorus, I observed that birds couldn't face police sanctions for doing what came naturally to them. I declined a request for increased police patrols to move the birds on.
During my time, the councils provided a valuable opportunity to engage, explain our actions, and take the community's pulse. Then, towards the end of my tenure, as the radical pan-dems took seats, the tone changed and not for the better.
Instead of dealing with local matters, the strident types sought to address ideological issues beyond the council's scope. They'd then feign indignation when the council declined to play their game. This was a taste of things to come. It all reinforced my view that anyone who wants to be a politician is very obviously unfit to be one by wanting the job.
Still, I voted in the district council election on Sunday. I did so because you can't gripe about the system when you fail to take the opportunity to engage and have some influence.
Moreover, the councils provide a nursery for our politicians and can help reflect public sentiment. Of course, the naysayers will level their usual charge that the election is hardly fair with debarred candidates.
Well, having seen the violence and mayhem that those debarred brought to our city, I'm not disposed to offer them much sympathy. They sought to turn the consultative process into a battleground, giving support to the rioters and thugs, who aimed to torch our home with their "Lam Chau" (攬炒) strategy. "I burn, you burn". And in pursuit of that plan, they literally set fire to critics who dared to confront them.
Nury Vittachi documents the horrors in this clip plus how the Western media ignored the evidence before them. Warning: the clip contains footage of an innocent woman beaten by so-called 'braves' for the crime of being a 'mainlander'.
It is important to remember that for most of British rule, officials populated the district councils with appointed persons deemed loyalists.
Next, the critics will jump upon the turnout rate to suggest public apathy. Such conclusions may have an element of truth, but not for the reasons the naysayers cite. As we recover from Covid, more focus on livelihood issues and a less strident atmosphere has dampened public sentiment around politics.
Anyway, while the turnout is lower than in earlier elections, it matches the election turnout in other jurisdictions. Mayoral races in the U.S. attract turnouts as low as 6 per cent; in Washington, DC, the turnout is 20 per cent, and New York City recorded 14 per cent.
Anyway, instead of agonizing over events here, I would suggest the critics ask themselves how things are in their immediate vicinity. Democracy, you say. Never trust anything invented by the Greeks. After all, they built an economy on plate smashing, which has recently not faired well.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.