Five or more reasons why Hong Kong is NOT the capitalist utopia you might imagine it to be (VI): Privatize the Police!

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Continuing with our past posts concerning the Hong Kong’s undeserved position in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, it is time to talk about the elephant in the room: Police, also called “Rascals” (guwatzai 古惑仔) by honest, non-leftard Hong Kong citizens.

In Hong Kong, as in any other socialist country, police and all its related duties, such as judicial services, law enforcement or prisons, are exclusively provided by the government. That is to say, there is a monopoly in police protection market in Hong Kong. In the early days, this led to a gruesome amount of corruption, for which the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was created as early as 1974. Whereas the ICAC originally reported to a single man, the Governor of Hong Kong, it is now dependent on the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. In other words: to fight corruption in a so-called capitalist society, we put our trust in the more-corrupted Chinese government. Good luck with that.

There is a substantial amount of literature on how private police would work and why it would solve many of the problems we encounter today, such as police brutality or the ineffective and absolutely expensive cost of prisons. I know you won’t click the link, so let me quote it here: “A year in a California prison costs more than a year at Harvard”. And YOU are paying for it. Since all these issues have been covered before, for example, by Murray Rothbard, I shall focus in an entirely different approach: it is irrelevant if private police could do it better, because public police is already doing it worse. In other words, whatever may go wrong with private law enforcement, is already going wrong with the public one. And YOU are paying for it.

Let’s take a recent example from Hong Kong Police’s amazing record: On May 7, a 22 years old girl was robbed, tied up with a computer cable (!) (or an iPhone cable, according to other sources), and raped outside Kwun Tong Road footbridge at Kowloon Bay MTR Station. The case was originally investigated by the Sau Mau Ping district crime squad, and it was later taken over by the Kowloon East regional crime unit. The suspect was arrested a few days later, his identity never revealed, and brought into custody at Sau Mau Ping Police Station, where he hanged himself with a LAN cable (!) [originally a USB cable] in his own cell. Computer cables are dangerous, baby, but not as dangerous as the police. Because prison cells in Hong Kong are empty, under surveillance 24/7, with patrols every 25 minutes (nobody saw him dead till the next morning), and the inmates’ belongings are taken away from them. So, how did he get a computer cable?

Many in Hong Kong believe that the Police arrested a random guy with a criminal record and decide to kill him to cover it up, thus getting praise for their prompt arrest. Others have suggested that the real rapist was somehow related to the police, hence the cover up. In the meantime, nobody seems to care about the real thing: a girl was raped.

Now imagine the Sau Mau Ping unit was a private police squad, with many other police squads competing freely for the bills in your wallet. If you are a victim and feel the police is doing something wrong, you can hire a different private police squad to see what the hell is going on. In a public, socialist system, all those squads report, ultimately, to the same Czar –the government. And they will get paid anyways, whether they get their job done or not. Still afraid private police cannot get the job done?

But taxpayers never learn. Contrary to common libertarian opinion, the government is not always a coercive monopoly –because it is not coercion when you willingly accept Him with a faith beyond believe. Soon after the cable incident, the same unit –the Kowloon East regional unit– witnessed another similar scandal: they arrested three hikers over the death of a fourth friend who left them behind in the mountain after receiving an urgent call. The three guys became suspects immediately –presumption of innocence anyone– with no public explanation. Many internet users joked about the arrests, saying that the three hikers will eventually hang themselves with a LAN cable.

But just think about this in a different way: if you pay for your own police, the police will not be doing stupid, useless things as, for example, limiting your freedom of religion. Oh, you thought you had freedom of religion in Hong Kong? Well…

Just few weeks ago I witness a group of at least 10 policemen who were protecting a banner against Falun Gong in Canton Road, in front of the Valentino shop in Harbour City. Together with the policemen, some random guy used a megaphone to explain people how bad Falun Gong was. In Mandarin. And just to make things more disturbing, the police set up a “Police Line” ribbon covering both sides of Canton Road, from Kowloon Park to the harbor.

Let’s make things clear: Falun Gong practitioners are nuts, just like those who believe in another evil cult, the Chinese Communist Party. The reason police decided to rope off the area is pretty simple: any time there is a banner against Falun Gong, believers in Falun Gong will put another one in front defending their beliefs. Free market, boys. Well, not anymore. Canton Road is often traveled by Chinese tourists, hence the Mandarin-speaking megaphone protected by the police. But since Falun Gong is not persecuted in Hong Kong, this can only mean that your beloved, public Hong Kong police works for the big red guys on the other side of the border: the Chinese Communist Party.

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