Negotiators practice active listening
to save lives
Hong Kong Police Force - Police Negotiation Cadre

Exemplary Services@Gov
2011

Mr Lau Tat-keung, Superintendent of Police and one of the Hong Kong Police Force's 82 negotiators, has always had a way with words. By signing up for the Police Negotiation Cadre (PNC), he was able to use these skills to support the Force's operations and in turn to serve the community.

Officers from the Police Force must pass a rigorous selection process and comprehensive training before taking up their voluntary secondary duty as police negotiators.

The PNC responded to about 80 cases over 2010, mostly suicide attempts or barricade cases.

A mission during SARS

Since joining the PNC more than two decades ago, Mr Lau has fielded several types of negotiation situations. Citing examples, he said he worked to help alleviate some of the tensions following the SARS outbreak in 2003.

At the beginning of the outbreak, the public had little information about the disease, so adapting to the outbreak was difficult for some of Hong Kong's residents. People who needed to be quarantined may refuse to be hospitalised or attempt to run away from hospitals, while those who ran the risk of being exposed to the disease resisted being quarantined at Lei Yue Mun Holiday Village for fear of contracting the disease from others.

The PNC played a crucial role in working to negotiate between government departments and quarantined residents, said Fung Wai-kin, Senior Superintendent of Police during the SARS outbreak. In the midst of tension and public fear, the police negotiators travelled to the Lei Yue Mun Holiday Village, took off their face masks and started a dialogue with quarantined residents to better understand their concerns. In the end, they managed to build mutual trust and comfort the Hong Kongers in quarantine, demonstrating the negotiators' selfless spirits.

Shining on the international stage

The PNC also participates in the large-scale public order events. In 2005, many organisations saw the first-ever World Trade Organisation's Hong Kong Ministerial Conference as an opportunity to raise their groups' concerns on the international stage. Ahead of the conference, the PNC worked closely with protestors to ensure events were held in a peaceful manner. Through this concerted effort, the PNC brought international attention to the efficiency of Hong Kong's law enforcement and the high respect it holds for civil rights and freedom.

While western countries have previously used negotiators to coordinate protest efforts, the deployment of the PNC to help calm protests at a large-scale international events was the first of its kind. Other police forces around the world have used this success as an example for handling protests.

Despite his eloquence, Mr Lau nevertheless believes that the essence of negotiation lies in "active listening" rather than talking. Reaching a successful consensus in negotiation requires negotiators to put themselves into another's shoes.

In the 36 years since they were first established, the PNC have successfully saved many lives by actively listening to others and effectively managed crisis intervention issues.

The JPC members met with the Chief Executive of HKSAR
The JPC members met with the Chief Executive of HKSAR.
The PNC assisted in coordinating the protest activities
The PNC assisted in coordinating the protest activities during the World Trade Organisation's Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.
The PNC played a crucial role to negotiate between government departments and quarantined residents during SARS.
The PNC played a crucial role to negotiate between government departments and quarantined residents during SARS.