Posts Tagged ‘police comments’

That an editor, or anyone else for that matter, can be attacked in a Hong Kong street and left for dead is horrifying. Early reactions to the attack on Mr Kevin Lau were understandably strong on shock and revulsion. But a few of them were not, and now that the dust has settled and Mr Lau is apparently out of danger, I propose to go back and look at these.

The SCMPost’s report of the outrage contained all the predictable stuff: comments, condemnations, intentions to raise the matter in Legco etc. It also contained this:
“Two police sources said the attack on Lau left little doubt that it was designed as a warning. One said, ‘If they had wanted to kill him they would have.’ The other added, ‘It was a classic triad hit. They went for the back and legs to warn him.'”

I have several problems with this. Policemen are not medical experts and the idea that attacks on people’s back are inherently non-lethal seems on the face of it rather dubious. It is also in shocking taste, under the circumstances. Mr Lau was, when the policemen were interviewed, fighting for his life in intensive care. He and we did not need a police person to set himself up as a triad spokesman and assure us that “This was only a warning – if we had wanted to kill you we would have cut your head off.” The use of the word “classic” in this context seems a poor choice. Does Hong Kong have so many triad hits that we now have a classic version, and what is the alternative: folk and pop hits? Easy listening murders?

It would perhaps be better if policemen refrained from pontificating on matters of this kind at all. It is a common complaint in legal circles that police triad “experts” are recruited on a rather undemanding basis. Knowledge of one outdated book suffices. This input seems to be supplemented by exposure to the output of the local film industry, which has made a good thing out of laundering money for the local gangster fraternity and consequently tends to portray triads as efficient and chivalrous organisations. You have to wonder, if police know so much about triad operations and people, how come we still have these bandits around the place?

Another problem with the nameless policemen’s approach is that it assumes the assailant’s approach and methods were entirely controlled by instructions to do a “warning attack” rather, presumably, than a “murderous attack”. Policemen who wish to pontificate on matters of this kind should first read D. Grossman’s classic work “On Killing”, which explores the psychological aspects of killing people. Would-be students can start here http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-on-killing/.

One of the points which Mr Grossman makes is that it is much harder to kill a person if you have to look at his face. Executions are commonly arranged so that the person who wields the sword or pulls the switch is behind the victim’s back. Often the victim is also hooded. In firing squad executions the victim is blindfolded; this is to help the shooters, not the target. Of course attacking from behind also has the practical advantage that your unsuspecting victim will not dodge or fight back.  I do not claim to be privy to the thought processes of triad hatchet men but I suppose if when you get off the motor bike the victim’s back is towards you then you might as well go for it, whatever your instructions.

There is a temptation, on occasions of this kind, for police spokesmen to try to look as if they are at least partly in control of the situation by professing to know what is going on. Merely by looking at a brief outline of the situation the law enforcement connoisseur can fill you in on who did it and what he intended. No doubt this is intended to be reassuring. Yet whenever media people are attacked in this way we find that the perpetrators are not caught. So this expertise is an illusion. So shut up.


Read Full Post »