Though there were far more pressing issues on the minds of the attending journalists at yesterday's press briefing by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), a change to the usual backdrop did not go unnoticed. Where the words "We Serve with Pride and Care" would usually be found was now a new statement, "Serving Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty".
The conference took place on Tuesday, a day after outgoing police commissioner Stephen Lo's replacement, Chris Tang was sworn into the position. And it would be easy to see this as an attempt to slap a new brand on the department with a new face in charge.
In addition to the "pride and care" motto only having been in use a relatively short time (since 2013) the HKPF is in the midst of a gigantic image crisis due to the media's coverage of the poor behaviour of the department's officers in the field. These actions have been viewed as so appalling that they have been condemned by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and ultimately led to yesterday's passing of a U.S bill that bans the sale of tear gas and other equipment to the HKPF. Work at a rebranding seemed to be in progress.
However, when asked about the seemingly new tagline, police public relations branch chief superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen denied it had any relation to current events and said that the slogan had previously made an appearance at events held earlier in the year to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the HKPF.
Commenting on the new motto, Kwok said:
"It actually highlights the characteristics of honour, duty, and loyalty, which is embedded in every police officer. It also recognises the changing social environment that's why we introduced the new motto."
He added, "It also assures the public that the Hong Kong Police Force will continue to serve the community professionally and wholeheartedly and the mission of serving Hong Kong will never change for us."
Reactions online to the change have largely been negative, questioning whether this was at all the best time to unveil the motto or if the motto itself is fitting of the department in its current state, as it faces criticism from an overwhelming share of the public. If it was intended as a fresh coat of paint for the HKPF, one could say it's being applied even as the rest of the house burns down around it.