Hong Kong police says calling protesters ‘cockroach’ is praising them for having ‘vitality’

He said it should be looked at as a term of "endearment".

Kayla Wong | December 24, 2019, 07:27 PM

The term “cockroach”, when used on protesters in Hong Kong, should be regarded as a term of endearment, a police officer said. 

Roaches are full of "vitality"

Hong Kong’s RTHK reported that community relations officer Tam Yu-hei said while the term might be looked upon in a bad light, people should not “over-interpret” it. 

This is because the insect is “full of vitality,'' he said on RTHK’s Hong Kong Connection programme.

He added that his colleagues have been very professional, and that all officers have agreed not to be hostile to anyone. 

RTHK interview police Screenshot via RTHK video interview

Besides the Hong Kong police, Chinese state media and pro-government supporters have also used the term to refer to protesters. 

The term has historically been used by groups such as the Rwandan Hutus before they launched a genocide on the Tutsis that lasted for 100 days. 

Police said internally not to use ‘cockroach’ before 

Tam’s words stand in stark contrast with what Assistant Commander Simon Southgate said to his colleagues back in August. 

In an email sent on Aug. 27, Southgate, who was new to the post, reminded other officers to “never” use the term “cockroaches” to refer to protesters, whether it be “verbal communication, on the radio, or even social media”. 

If the officers do so, they would be “playing in to [the protesters’] hands”, he added. 

“We must continue to show that we are better and more professional than they are.” 

Southgate has confirmed to Hong Kong Free Press that he had indeed sent the email. 

Anonymous police officer said colleagues “out of control” 

On the other hand, RTHK also reported that another police officer has told the programme anonymously that many of his colleagues have been “out of control” while dealing with the protests.

On the Yuen Long attacks on July 21, in which a white-clad mob attacked protesters and commuters alike, he said the police force’s reluctance to “admit their mistakes further eroded the public’s trust in the police”. 

He even said a number of his colleagues are unhappy with the management in the force, adding that he hopes the government will be “courageous” enough to launch an independent inquiry into the protests.

His comments were similar to the ones made by an anonymous police officer to a South Korean programme that aired in November. 

He claimed that the police had delayed sending help to the Yuen Long train station when the attacks happened as there was an order from “upper management” to Yuen Long district to “not go to the scene of the incident that early”. 

He further claimed that the police had made the decision as they allegedly felt that “the public didn’t think the police were important”, and wanted to teach them a lesson of not having any police around. 

Top image via RTHK