Cul­ti­vate re­spect for oth­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - HO LOK- SANG The author is di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy Stud­ies at Ling­nan Univer­sity.

Iam a be­liever in lib­eral arts ed­u­ca­tion, and I see the spirit of lib­eral arts ed­u­ca­tion lies in BRIGHT, which stands for Bold, Re­spon­si­ble and Re­spect­ful, In­quis­i­tive, Globalist and Gen­er­al­ist, Hum­ble and Hu­man­ist, and Tol­er­ant. This acro­nym is easy to re­mem­ber, and serves as a good re­minder for my­self as a per­son and as an ed­u­ca­tor. It is also a stan­dard against which hope my stu­dents will set them­selves. Against this back­ground, I find it un­for­tu­nate and dis­turb­ing that the Al­pais Lam Wai-sze in­ci­dent ever oc­curred; the clash be­tween a teacher and the po­lice, when the lat­ter were per­form­ing their du­ties. Given that it oc­curred, it is im­por­tant that we all learn from both the in­ci­dent and its af­ter­math. What are the lessons?

First of all, it is all too clear that Ms Lam di­rected abu­sive lan­guage at a po­lice of­fi­cer and did not give him the re­spect he de­served as a fel­low cit­i­zen. She “apol­o­gized” to the par­ents of stu­dents in her school and to the school, but she re­fused to apol­o­gize to the of­fi­cer that she of­fended. This is strange, be­cause her wrong was di­rectly done to the po­lice of­fi­cer, and not to the school or the par­ents of stu­dents at­tend­ing that school. De­spite her re­fusal to apol­o­gize to the po­lice of­fi­cer, the school only rep­ri­manded her, in­stead of dis­miss­ing her.

I would have no com­plaint about the way the school han­dled the case if she had apol­o­gized to the po­lice of­fi­cer. Cer­tainly we should be for­giv­ing, for hu­man be­ings are all apt to do wrong things. How­ever, by re­fus­ing to apol­o­gize to the po­lice of­fi­cer, Ms Lam is sug­gest­ing that her in­vec­tive was jus­ti­fi­able. Lack­ing the courage to apol­o­gize to the po­lice of­fi­cer, she is set­ting a bad ex­am­ple to stu­dents and has un­der­mined the sin­cer­ity of her apol­ogy to par­ents and the school. I think the school’s de­ci­sion to re­tain her as a teacher is wrong.

Ms Lam said her foul lan­guage was an out­burst caused by the bi­ased way the po­lice han­dled the con­flict be­tween the Falun Gong group and the Hong Kong Youth Care As­so­ci­a­tion in Mong Kok. But if she is so un­happy with this al­leged bias, she could com­plain to the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Coun­cil (IPCC). The en­tire in­ci­dent was video­taped and the record­ing can be used as ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate her al­le­ga­tion. The IPCC will look at it and have to hear from the po­lice of­fi­cer be­fore mak­ing a judg­ment.

When Lam was in­ter­viewed by D100, an In­ter­net broad­cast­ing op­er­a­tion, she said: “I re­ally feel very bad about the rep­ri­mand. Isn’t it true that any­one un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances will feel bad? I feel sad but I am sure I will over­come this be­fore long.” She was not happy with the fact that the state­ment did not in­di­cate that her out­burst was a re­sult of the “bi­ased” way the po­lice han­dled the case.

To me, the worst mis­take is not to ad­mit one’s mis­takes. A mis­take is a mis­take and it can­not be jus­ti­fied. If a wrong has been done, we need to ad­mit it, and if an apol­ogy is due, it should be made.

Some­times the per­ceived pic­ture may not be the com­plete or real pic­ture. Per­cep­tions are of­ten flawed. That is why we should only make ten­ta­tive con­clu­sions on many things. You may think that there was bias; but the po­lice may have a jus­ti­fi­able rea­son to do what they did. Shouldn’t we al­low the po­lice to tell their side of the story?

Un­for­tu­nately in Hong Kong th­ese days, per­cep­tions are ev­ery­thing. Peo­ple of­ten refuse to use their best judg­ment on spe­cific is­sues with an open mind. Peo­ple say that Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying has dif­fi­cul­ties in han­dling the de­vel­op­ment of North East New Ter­ri­to­ries, the garbage is­sue, and hous­ing is­sues, be­cause he was dis­hon­est about the unau­tho­rized struc­tures at his home and be­cause sev­eral of his cabi­net mem­bers have been em­broiled in “scan­dals”. But quite apart from the fact that some “scan­dals” re­main un­sub­stan­ti­ated, would things re­ally have been dif­fer­ent if some­one else were in charge? Would the vil­lagers who in­sist on “No re­moval, no de­mo­li­tion” change their minds? Would the garbage prob­lem sud­denly dis­ap­pear, or the res­i­dents in the af­fected re­gions hold back their ob­jec­tions? It is high time we get our minds to­gether to deal with the real is­sues that we face, in­stead of fin­ger point­ing, which never helps any cause.

Ho Lok-sang

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