Firemen suspended for mocking cop's death

Top News | Michael Shum 30 Sep 2021

Michael Shum

Two firemen have been suspended from their jobs after they rejoiced in the death of Marine Police senior inspector Lam Yuen-yee.

She died during a chase of speedboat-riding smugglers, and the firemen said the 37-year-old officer "deserved" her fate.

The firemen and other people mocked the police after the overturning of Lam's chase craft, carrying four officers, when it was rammed by the smugglers at Sha Chau on Saturday.

Lam was found dead in waters off Lantau two days later.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said authorities will now consider including incitement of hatred as an offense in legislation being prepared for Basic Law Article 23.

Sources said the Fire Services Department suspended the two unidentified firefighters, based at the Ngau Chi Wan and Braemar Hill stations, after they made fun of Lam's death. The two have not been named, and it was not clear how long their suspensions will last.

A netizen had on Monday posted on social media word that one firefighter had gloated over Lam's death and said she "had it coming."

The firemen were in fact said to be among a group of people who posted remarks on social media, including the line that the event "calls for celebrations and popping champagne."

They were repeating a reported remark by a police officer during the 2019 anti-fugitive bill movement after a student fell to his death from a car park in a Tsueng Kwan O building amid a demonstration in the district.

Some people also reported postings on Monday to Director of Fire Services Joseph Leung Wai-hung, saying they were stunned and offended by the "scornful, callous and heartless abuse and attacks at the death of the revered police officer."

In response, the department said existing guidelines for its officers over the use of social media underscored the importance of its officers' behavior and discipline.

"We are currently probing online remarks, and if it is established they breached the law or regulations the department will definitely follow up in accordance with established mechanisms," a spokesman for the Fire Services said.

The Fire Services Department Staff's General Association was also quick to disassociate itself and its members with the remarks in an internal notice and in an open letter to Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee. "The association strongly condemns people who posted insane remarks that annihilate humanity and videos that incite hatred on social media during such a sorrowful moment," chairman Jerry Nip Yuen-fung wrote, though his reference to videos was not clear.

He also said the association has empathy for the police losing a officer during an operation and understood the sadness among the force.

Apart from the remarks on social media, some people who went online made a parody of a song to laugh at Lam's death.

Members said in a Legislative Council meeting yesterday that such material turned people against the police.

Chris Tang also said on inserting "inciting hatred" into impending Article 23 legislation that there was no mention of it in the national security law.

Officials were now speeding up work on Article 23 legislation, Tang added, and he hoped it could be done during the next legislative term.

The bill will be based on provisions proposed back in 2003, when the administration made its first attempt to enact Article 23, but the effort foundered after the move drew 500,000 citizens to the streets in opposition.

Tang added: "But we will take into account what has happened in Hong Kong in the past two years as there may be gaps that need to be filled after the implementation of the national security law."

In Guangdong, meanwhile, public security officers rounded up 70 people who operate speedboats in the hope of identifying the smugglers blamed for Lam's death.

The operation that cost Lam her life is thought to be linked to the smuggling of frozen meat.

There was also word doing the rounds that a smuggler involved with Lam's death had fled to Russia, knowing he was in big trouble.

Mainland officers were said to be attempting to verify if that rumor was true.

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