Hong Kong netizens have launched a White House petition calling for international attention for a recent case of political persecution of a primary school teacher that many fear is the beginning of massive persecution of political dissents similar to the nature of the Cultural Revolution in mainland China.
In the middle of July, a five-minute video showing primary school teacher Lam Wai-sze swearing at some police officers in the Mongkok district started circulating online. Initially, a majority of netizens praised the police's professional attitude in dealing with the “unreasonable” and “hysterical” teacher. Later, some users revealed Lam's identity and school contact, calling on the public to file complaints against Lam's behavior in the public.
But soon a number of online media outlets stepped in and explained the context [zh] of the dispute. The incident happened on July 15 when the Hong Kong Youth Care Association (HKYCA), a branch of the China Anti-Cult Association, harassed a Falun Gong (FLG) street exhibition of the Chinese Communist Party's organ harvesting of dissendents and criminals by covering their stall with a huge banner. Instead of separating the HKYCA and the Falun Gong protest, the police officers set up a blockade and stopped pedestrians from entering the Falun Gong's stall.
Lam argued with the police, asking them why they did not protect the FLG's freedom of expression and allow the youth association to bully them. The police officers did not give any explanation and threatened the teacher that they would take her to the police station if she did not leave the blockade area. Lam, losing her cool, began to curse at the police. The entire eight-minute video below shows the conflict between HYCA and the Falun Gong on July 15. Many passers-by were discontent with the police:
With the context of Lam Wai-sze's emotional response unveiled, many opinion leaders start backing her up. Tse Nin-chung, a local lawyer, explained from the legal perspective about police negligence in handling the incident:
青關會和法輪功之間的事，涉及政府保衛公民權的責任，簡單而言便是「執法」。即使青關會有公民權，政府也要令青關會以和平方式行使，若青關會手法和平，法輪功行使公民權便不受阻礙 […] 警隊的角色不可只做一個「旁觀者」(onlooker)，因為「旁觀者」無異於路人甲，只觀看但沒執行任務，而法庭說，警隊的責任是「明確的責任」，英文是 positive duty[…] 難於接受的，是法輪功受青關會欺壓報警求助，警察到場，見青關會包圍和指斥法輪功，對「不和平手法」袖手旁觀，令法輪功繼續遭壓迫，做個「旁觀者」，這等一如有人被打報警求助，警察到場，見匪徒毆打報警者，警察仍做個「旁觀者」，道理是一樣的。警察沒有履行「明確的責任」，清晰不過。
Regarding the conflict between HKYCA and FLG, the government has to take responsibility to protect citizens’ civil rights. Which means the police have to enforce the law. While HKYCA has the right to protest against FLG, the government has to make sure that it is peaceful so that their action will not obstruct FLG's rights. […] Police cannot act as an “onlooker” which means they are not enforcing the law. The court is very specific on the police's responsibility, in English terms it is “positive duty” […] What is unacceptable in the [July 15] incident is that when FLG was bullied by HYCA, they called the police for help. When the police officers arrived, even though they witnessed HKYCA surrounding and yelling at FLG, they did nothing to stop HKYCA's uncivilized actions. They stood there as onlookers. This is equal to the scenario of someone being beaten by others, and he or she calls the police for help. Police officers arrive and do nothing to stop the beating. They turn into onlookers and do not fulfill their “positive duty”. This is very clear.
Lau Kwai-bill, a writer at citizen media portal inmediahk.net, explained why so many people support Lam:
We support her not because she insulted the police with dirty words. We support her because she spoke for justice. Her intentions in arguing with the police are right. FLG has the right to express their opinion in the streets. They have applied for a permit from the government for their stall. This is not the first time that HKYCA obstructed their rights and the police haven't handled the matter professionally. What happened in Mongkok is the same, and teacher Lam speaking up for FLG is an act of justice. This is her sole intention, not insulting the police.
Enough though Lam's behavior was well-intentioned, she still issued a letter of apology regarding her outburst to protect her school from public pressure. But pro-Beijing newspapers continue to attack her stating that her manner has disqualified her for being a primary school teacher. Pro-Beijing groups even put up huge banners outside Lam's school saying that she sets a bad example and is poisonous to school kids. Such personal public insults highly resemble the political prosecution of teachers during the Cultural Revolution in mainland China, as online publication Passion Times pointed out [zh] in their Facebook action call:
The Hong Kong communists now use the political tactics of the Cultural Revolution, attacking teacher Lam Wai-sze in public. Some netizens saw many huge banners were hung outside Lam Wai-sze's school, demanding the school sack Lam. Such kind of threat is also similar to mafia bullying of their targets. Their act has certainly harassed the teachers and the students of the school.
In addition to the anonymous public attack, the Junior Police Officer Association (JPOA) and the Police Inspectors’ Association (HKPIA) jointly issued a statement at the end of July condemning Lam for insulting the police. Then on August 4, two pro-Beijing organizations, the Parent's Association of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Actions, an organization formed by retired police officers, held an assembly in Mongkok to show support for the police and admonish Lam Wai-sze.
Lam's supporters reacted by gathering at the same spot, shouting the same four letter words that got the teacher in trouble to the pro-Beijing assembly organizers.
As if the issue wasn't hot enough, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong C.Y Leung added fuel to the fire on August 11 by urging the Education Bureau to hand in an official report on Lam's case and the regional crime squad of the police, a police unit for serious criminal offenses, also received order to investigate into Lam's case for “obstruction of police officer in the execution of duty”.
The public statement issued by Association for the Advancement of Feminism explained the political nature of the chief executive's speech:
梁以上的言論營造了行使言論自由去批評政府的市民是要承受後果的影響，借指責該市民挑戰警權及警方執法，便會面對可能失去工作﹑被審查 […] 高調要求教育局局長就一名老師在非工作時間對警員講粗口一事遞交報告，是製造白色恐怖，意圖監控及侵犯專業教師的言論自由。梁這些偏頗的言論及行為， 證明他完全沒有關注市民大眾所關注的事，也沒有把香港的利益放在首位。 梁在八月十一日發表言論後市民及社會輿論一致表示不滿，但政府仍然一意孤行發出聲明表示要就林老師事件遞交報告，而警方更不分輕重把講粗口這行為列作重案組處理範圍內，怎能不令市民對政府管治、警方中立性，以及香港的前途信心大失！
Leung's speech told the public that they would bear the consequences for exercising their freedom of speech if they criticize the government. He condemned the citizen for challenging police authority and suggested that such action will make her lose her job and subjected to an investigation […] His high-sounding request that the chief of the Education Bureau should hand in the report regarding a teacher argument with police during non-working hours is a kind of white terror. The intention is to monitor and infringe teachers’ freedom of speech. His actions and his speech show that he pays no attention to public concerns and the interests of Hong Kong. People and public opinion found his speech on August 11 outrageous, but he still issued an official statement demanding the report on Lam's behavior from the Education Bureau. In addition, the police decided to go after [the incident] through the regional crime unit. How can people not be losing confidence in the government, the neutrality of the police, and the future of Hong Kong?