The British Empire Library

Hong Kong Policeman

by Chris Emmett

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Michael Waters, MBE (Western Pacific 1972- 1976; Hong Kong 1976 - 1997 Police and Administration)
This is an exciting book but it is not an academic or historical memoir of the Royal Hong Kong Police. It is a dramatic and colourful personal account of the author's service as an Inspector in the Force during the 1970s in a number of very different, challenging and interesting postings and is told with humour and a degree of light heartedness. Reading this book makes one feel that one has just stepped off the plane again at the old Kai Tak Airport into the very heart of the Orient. It conjures up that feeling of Hong Kong as it was before it became gentrified and a cosmopolitan international city.

Chris Emmett served in a number of very different postings after leaving Police Training School. Tsuen Wan Division in the days when the old town was still there and when Route TWSK was a quite rural road. His description of the horrors and the flooding when the Colony received a direct hit from Typhoon Rose is told from the perspective of a young officer out on duty at the height of the storm. His first brush with the perennial problem of corruption reminds the reader that this was a big issue in Hong Kong in the 1970s.

I was particularly attracted by his account of service on the Frontier in Sha Tau Kok up on the border with a China still in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. I myself served in Special Branch, New Territories in 1977-78 and his description of Chung Ying Street, Sha Tau Kok, divided down the middle between British and Chinese territory and the glowering Chinese sentry is so accurate. The Lin Ma Hang Road and the climb up to Pak Kong Au post also brought back old memories. Similarly the endless internecine strife between different village clans and rural committees. The author's account reminds us that policing in this rural area was, with the exception of the China dimension, much more like policing in other rural colonial territories.

Chris went on to serve in the Police Tactical Unit - the internal security and riot control unit which operated along military lines with a company and platoon structure. One can just see them marching up, displaying the obligatory warning banner, warning the trouble makers via the loud hailer and then using force as appropriate. However it wasn't quite like this. The author served in the NT Platoon based in Tsuen Wan where they spent most of their time backing up the local Police and keeping gangs and triads quiet.

The latter part of the book details his service in CID on Hong Kong Island. A fascinating account of all the problems with crime and vice and the criminal underworld in the urban area stretching from Kennedy Town to Chai Wan.

This is a great read and a most enjoyable book. Sure there is a bit of 'poetic license' and a very vivid interpretation of events. However this was Hong Kong in the 1970s and that's the way it was in this unique and exciting city - scratch the surface and you would always find something quite amazing. Sadly those days have now gone. Highly recommended.

British Empire Book
Chris Emmett
Earnshaw Books Limited


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