British officers are doing China’s dirty work in Hong Kong

Published by The Times (19th November, 2019)

With a sickening sense of inevitability, the peaceful pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has ended up locked in violent clashes against police after confronting a ruthless dictatorship. The homemade catapults, crude barricades and flaming petrol bombs of students are little match for a well-armed force backed by a superpower. But from the start the passionate young protesters fighting for their future accepted that blood would be spilt and lives might end up being sacrificed for their cause.

They believe they have no alternative when they see the repression, backed by technology and concentration camps, used by Communist Party chiefs to control more than one billion citizens. Their courage is inspiring. Yet how depressing to see some Britons confronting these youngsters on the frontline, doing Beijing’s dirty work as they direct efforts to crush a struggle for freedom.

As I saw for myself when covering the protests, at least five British officers in the Hong Kong police have played a leading anti-protest role. These people have been vilified by activists, who accuse them of directing brutal incidents and hound them on social media. A retired British officer told me that they were also dismaying many colleagues.

They include Chief Superintendent Rupert Dover, a former public schoolboy seen at the university confrontation, and David Jordan, a commandant who joined the force after leaving the Royal Navy and was also spotted at the scene of the siege.

Another British officer won notoriety earlier on when giving orders to fire tear gas as a pro-democracy politician approached police to call for peaceful resolution of a street confrontation. I watched two more direct operations, one mocked by residents after his team had to release a young man held on suspicion of joining protests.

These officers are among the remnants of 900 Britons serving in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to China under the ‘one country, two systems’ deal agreed by Margaret Thatcher and now being trashed, to near-silence from our current leaders. Today, the 32,000-strong force contains some 50 expats.

At the start of this conflict the police, for all their failings, were not thugs but slowly they have been sucked into more aggressive tactics to serve their Chinese masters. Now police are holding rifles, medics are arrested and some of the brutality is sickening. As Hong Kong spins out of control, it is time for British officers to respect their own democratic heritage and stop aiding a savage dictatorship.

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