Raphael Blet

The Story Behind How A 20 Year Old Hong Kong Cop Became An International Hero

Last month, 20 year old Hong Kong policeman Ifzal Zaffar became a viral star after gaining international media attention after saving a man from killing himself.

Many have called Zaffar a hero.

Zaffar, who joined the police less than a year ago was acclaimed for his act which prevented a Pakistani man from committing suicide.

In addition of risking his own life by climbing on a crane, the constable used his language skills to communicate with the suicidal man and avoided what could have been a tragedy.
Zaffar — a Hongkonger of Pakistani origins — joined the police force less than a year ago through Project Gemstone, an initiative launched in 2013 by the Hong Kong Police Force to enlist members of ethnic minority communities.

For many years, it has been difficult for ethnic minority members to find jobs within the civil service in Hong Kong.

However, such projects have given their fruits and showed how important it is for Hong Kong to culturally diversify its disciplinary forces.

Last week, 12 Nepali males were arrested in Yau Ma Tei on suspicion of taking part in illegal activities.

In order to insure a smooth operation, the police in Yau Tsim Mong called on the help of Niraj Gurung — a 20 year old constable of Nepali origins who’s grandfather served as a Gurkha back in the old days.

Gurung was also recruited through Project Gemstone.

Through the use of his language skills, Gurung was able to avoid the situation to worsen as it was sadly the case in 2009 when a homeless Nepali male was shot dead by police mainly because of cultural and linguistic barriers.

The newly serving officer was able to gain fame after being requested by his superior to hold a press conference in his native language, which was so far uncommon practice for the force.

Such measures are necessary in order to break the barrier between the community and the police and it seems that the government became aware of this undeniable fact.

The presence of South Asians in the police can be traced back to 1862 when William Quin — a Superintendent who previously served in Bombay — decided to recruit police officers from India.

At the time, the recruitment of South Asians was regarded as a way to maintain neutrality during conflicts between Chinese villagers as these officers were unlikely to take a stance due given the cultural distinctions.

Nowadays, their presence is as necessary as before but for a slightly different reason which is that — as Asia’s World City — Hong Kong needs to be representative of its population.

Let’s for once admit it: some government departments have done a great job thanks to initiatives such as Gemstone.

At the same time, ethnic minority recruits have been able to feature their substantial professionalism and proved of the necessity to have them as being fully part of our community.

Overall speaking, let me give credit to the police for their commitment in including ethnic minorities as part of the local community.

Let me also congratulate these officers who made Hong Kong proud of what it is.

Let’s end with a quote from an old police recruitment advertising campaign from the 1980s: “Yau Ma Tei 3am, a fine time to discover yourself”.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ifzal Zaffar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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