On retiring while at the pinnacle of his career after 35 years in the police force, Tang King-shing set up two targets to work on.
“First I wanted to do things
“Whether we like it or not, youths will take over from us. So it’s important to steer them with positive attitude to make this a better place in the future.”
Five years since stepping down as head of the 30,000-strong force, 61-year-old Tang is practising what he preaches.
He holds a number of youth-related advisory positions, including with the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association, among the 12 roles he has taken up with local organisations. The latest is as an adviser to the Hong Kong Taxi Council “to reform and promote the taxi trade”.
“None of these positions is salaried and some actually cost me the transportation fee. But it’s important to remain clean as I always have in mind the old saying that power corrupts,” he said.
Tang recalled a question he was asked after giving a speech shortly following his appointment to the top police job in 2007 – which company would he join at the end of his four-year term, given his predecessor Tsang Yam-pui had taken up a post at property developer New World Development on retirement? “I told the inquirer that was an improper question to ask, as it would put my decision and judgment in subsequent years at stake,” he said.
This cautious approach has continued in retirement.
“It is my principle not to comment on current events and issues to avoid being taken as making remarks against the incumbent government,” he said.
“I don’t ask my former colleagues what case they are working on or who gets what promotion. If information gets leaked, there is one less suspect.”
But Tang did not shy away from talking about his various voluntary positions, two as chairman and one as a Hong Kong adviser to China, all of which have found relevance to his police years, including some hard-boiled Police Tactical Unit and Special Duties Unit operations.
“You can’t say my experience in the police force has been put to trivial use,” he said of his chairmanship of the management committee of Hong Kong News-Expo, a project under the Journalism Education Foundation to turn a historic building at Bridges Street, Mid-Levels, into a media education and visitor centre.
“Management is very important in any police operation, and there’s a lot of study and planning prior to action,” the former Mong Kok district commander said.
“As the management committee chairman of the news project, I need to build the office from scratch with few full-time staff and more part-time and volunteers within the budget based on government funds and the Hong Kong Jockey Club,” he said.
The project, which will require HK$85.3 million under the revitalisation scheme to turn a former three-storey market into a media museum, is now awaiting approval, bogged down by persistent filibustering in the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee.
Tang expected the upgrade would take nine months to complete from the start of construction, but added: “We are at the mercy of filibuster and the prospect of getting it soon is slim.”
As a host of a weekly radio show on DBC, in which he interviews guests from all walks of life, Tang has come to view the media in a different light. “Media plays an important role and those in the media deserve better terms than what they get now,” he said.
As for the Country and Marine Parks Board, of which he was reappointed chairman for a second term last year, Tang emphasised the body’s advisory role.
“Lots of reporters asked me about the policy on the use of country parks. But we are only consultative by nature and not policy-making,” he said.“Government makes the policy and seeks advice from the board, which it can choose to take or ignore.”
As a member of the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Tang took the initiative and offered advice for his mainland counterparts as much as for the country at large.
“I take my role as a CPPCC member very seriously, and I hope my advice can offer the Hong Kong experience to help China integrate into the world,” he said.
He said he saw himself as more than just one of the 120-plus members from the city attending the annual session in Beijing.
“The official ratio for CPPCC membership is one from every 600,000 in China’s population. For Hong Kong to have a quota of 120 is 10 times more than what we should have got. That shows how much importance the country attaches to our input,” he said.
He recalled that he submitted official “proposals” at the sessions on crowd control after the disastrous stampede in Shanghai on New Year’s Eve, 2014, that killed 36 people. He also advised on urban law enforcement in mainland cities, which lacked an institutionalised base like the Hong Kong police force.
Referring to the disastrous stampede at Lan Kwai Fong in 1993, in which 21 people new year revellers died, Tang said: “We learn from past mistakes. The important thing is we become wiser after each mistake committed.
“[In Beijing], they were surprised at the 60-plus chapters of the Hong Kong police general orders which list in detail everything about the police operations, from managing beggars to flying helicopters.
“I can see a genuine will to learn. But China is such a big country, it takes time to change, and we have to respect that.”