Studying Hong Kong Police History
The investigation into Hong Kong Police (HKP) suffers from the usual problems of lack of source materials and scholarly interests. As a result, not much has been written on Hong Kong Police, still less on HKP history. Given the storied history of Hong Kong as a colony and importance of HKP on colonial administration (1941 – 1997), it is surprising that there are so few interest and effort, to explicate HKP’s political role in colonial administration and document its impact on social development. Of those few that are available, they are hardly accurate and complete. They fail to tell the readers the whole story of HKP, especially what the HKP to the Hong Kong people is all about.
Historiography is about discovering and interpretation of obscured and scattered facts, not rendering of reality. It is story telling by victors (gun), elites (rich) and learned (pen), with a given focus, framework and perspective. Thus far, the study of HKP history the focus has been on HKP as a law and order institution. The framework is one of colonialism. The perspective is from the top down (HK government) and afar (England). The voices of the people of Hong Kong on policing are rarely if ever taken into account. Nor are there any HKP history built upon the testimonials on frontline (Chinese) officers.
An institutional history of HKP written from above (administration), afar (political) and aloof (economics) has no hope of capturing the "Spirit of the Age" or Zeitgeist. View in this way, HKP history is both subjective and constructed, narrative about ruler and ruled, corruption and progress, not what Hong Kong people perceived and received their police, in the past.
In investigating into HKP history there is a need to draw a clear distinction between studying HKP as a political instrumentality of control or suppression vs. social institution for control or service. For the first 100 years (1844 to 1944), HKP knows the first, not the second, from ether the Hong Kong government, British Parliament or Hong Kong people’s perspective.
Finally, it must be realized that investigating into HKP institutionally is not the same as studying policing in Hong Kong, functionally. In Chinese society from antiquity, police as n Weberian type of formal, bureaucratic, legal, professional and coercive organization/institution of social control did not exist. Policing (social control, order maintenance) is conducted informally and pervasively, with education, surveillance and sanction, by family and community with the endorsement and support of the state. Thus observed, studying HKP as a political – social control institution historically, while a valuable and interesting intellectual exercise, will till us little about how policing – social control of Hong Kong people is conducted or realized.
In all, the study of how Hong Kong policing work requires the studying of much more than how the HKP work as an institution.