Hong Kong's embattled police force has tried to show a softer side amid its recent struggle with anti-government protesters, releasing a video of an officer gently persuading residents besieging a police station to leave.
The force released the clip, titled "affectionate dialogue in laser", on its Facebook page on Saturday. It shows a white-shirted male police officer addressing protesters and residents through a microphone outside Ma On Shan Police Station. The people point laser beams at officers standing on a balcony in the building.
The protesters surrounded the police station for a few nights since August 2, when they were there to support eight people, including Hong Kong National Party convenor Andy Chan Ho-tin, arrested in Fo Tan a day before.
In the video footage, instead of shouting loudly and angrily like some of his peers during previous protests, the officer explains potential offences and penalties to those outside the station in great detail.
"Do you know you are committing the offence of unlawful assembly, which bears a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment?" the officer says, after asking his colleagues to point lights and cameras at a certain protester accused of pointing a laser.
"I hope you can leave immediately, give yourself another chance and think about your parents who have been supporting you," the officer says.
Then he turns to another protester, who was reportedly standing next to the first accused.
"Look at the chat groups on your phone, do you want to lose contact with them for five years?" the officer says.
"If you have also committed criminal damage, that means another 10 years. And if you are also part of a riot, that will bring you a total of 25 years in jail. How much time does that mean to you?"
In less than one day, the video was seen 255,000 times and became one of the most popular videos on the force's Facebook page, second only to a three-hour press conference held last Monday.
Its comments section was also filled with mixed reactions.
Alfred Lai wrote that a soft approach was the only right way to ease tensions in the current situation.
Another person, Lennon Tsang, wrote that he wished the force could have employed such gentle measures earlier, while Ricky Cheung wrote persuasion was better than physical dispersal.
"It's useless to use force every time."
Chris Mak Yun-pui, a pro-democracy district councillor based in Ma On Shan, said the force's promotion of the clip was "sugar-coated poison".
"What makes me uncomfortable is that a gentle threat is essentially a threat and what sends a chill down my spine is that the force wants to showcase this," Mak said.
Mak added that the police's public relations officer exited a mobile chat group with district councillors across the political spectrum last week, leaving the latter no direct channel with the force.
Policing and public order management expert Lawrence Ho Ka-ki said what mattered now in Hong Kong on particular episodes was beyond policing tactics.
"The loss of mutual trust is the main reason of confrontation or even escalated violence," Ho said.
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