Looking ahead, Ifzal and Heina, two Hong Kong constables of Pakistani origin stationed at Kowloon West, said they would continue to dedicate themselves to social activities that promote ethnic harmony and inclusion, and steadily perform their duties in the police force.
by Zhou Danni
HONG KONG, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Ifzal Zaffar and Heina Rizwan Mohammad, two Hong Kong constables of Pakistani origin stationed at Kowloon West, are the very epitome of about a dozen of new-generation police officers who are committed to maintaining peace and tranquility in the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR).
According to the statistics released by the HKSAR government, South Asians, with over 100,000 population, were the largest ethnic minority group in Hong Kong as of 2021, apart from foreign workers. To this day, those of South Asian descent have become increasingly present in the Hong Kong Police Force.
REALIZING POLICE DREAMS
Ifzal's parents migrated from Pakistan and settled down in Hong Kong years ago, and Ifzal himself is born and bred in Hong Kong.
Ifzal's dream of becoming a policeman was rooted in his childhood. "When I was little, I always thought police officers were stylish and they could help people," he said.
After graduating from high school, he studied under the Yi Jin Diploma program in disciplinary forces and successfully joined the police force upon his first application in 2015. The 26-year-old, a proficient speaker of Urdu and Cantonese, can also speak fluent Mandarin, English and Punjabi.
Heina, 32, is the first-ever South Asian woman to join the Hong Kong Police Force since Hong Kong's return to the motherland in 1997.
A fourth-generation Pakistani immigrant to Hong Kong, she studied at local schools, took Chinese history courses out of interest, and was familiar with classic policewomen characters in the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) dramas.
Heina's grandfather served as a Hong Kong policeman until retiring in the 1990s and her parents' occupations were also closely associated with police, thus she determined to pursue a career in the police force to inherit the family honor passed down to her.
Heina initially worked as a community liaison officer in the Yuen Long Division before she was encouraged by her seniors to apply to be a policewoman.
After months of preparations, she passed the challenging fitness test and interviews, and stood out among several ethnic minority candidates with her excellent Cantonese. Finally, her dream came true in the year of 2012.
SERVING SOCIETY WITH INTEGRITY
Located in the Mong Kok police station in Hong Kong, the sturdy, square, and cream-colored building of the Emergency Unit (EU) Kowloon West headquarter has stood straight amid the hustle and bustle of the city for more than 80 years.
Currently, a member of the EU Kowloon West, Ifzal is always at the forefront of patrols, dealing with various emergency incidents.
Back in March 2017, the story of Ifzal, who was working in the Yau Ma Tei police station at that time, became viral on the Internet as he rescued a distressed Pakistani man by talking him down the crane in Urdu, and Ifzal's bravery and professionalism were widely acclaimed by the public.
When serving at the Special Duty Squad (SDS), Ifzal handled gambling and drug cases, which often required him to wear plain clothes and arrest dangerous suspects.
He said his multiple language skills had made it easier for him to communicate with ethnic minorities, helping him conduct investigations, obtain more information and maintain law and order.
Ifzal's interpretation of "Serving Hong Kong with Honor, Duty and Loyalty," the motto of the Hong Kong police force, was that the police should act as a bridge between the society and the HKSAR government.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he participated in the virus-testing operation carried out in Hong Kong's Jordan area as a member of the Police Tactical Unit (PTU).
He also served as the translator, along with his brother who worked in the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, for South Asian residents that could not understand Chinese or English, explaining the government's testing measures and assisting them in taking leave from their employers in Cantonese.
These heart-warming gestures reassured many South Asian residents in the quarantined areas, who actively followed the anti-pandemic instructions.
Heina is working at the Kowloon West Missing Persons Unit at present, and her daily rituals include meticulously analyzing complex clues and information and striving to enable the missing persons to reunite with their families.
With extensive experience in social work, Heina often makes full use of her language advantages to console the ethnic minority kids who ran away from home because of family matters and guide them to orient their life.
Passionate about Chinese culture, Heina also speaks good Mandarin. In March this year, she was out on patrol when she received the request to locate a missing 60-year-old tourist from north China's Tianjin municipality. She communicated with the requesting party in Mandarin and spent a few hours assiduously searching all the hotels along the street one by one, before she finally found the missing tourist.
CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIAL INCLUSION
The descendants of South Asian immigrants in Hong Kong mainly cluster in districts such as Yau Tsim Mong, Sham Shui Po, Yuen Long and Wan Chai. Many of them can speak fluent Cantonese whereas have difficulty in reading and writing Chinese.
Since 2013, the police departments of Yau Tsim and Yuen Long launched "Project Gemstone" and "Project Himalaya," respectively. By organizing free Chinese classes, fitness classes and group activities each week, the projects aim at helping non-ethnic Chinese youths improve their Chinese language skills and understand Hong Kong culture, in a bid to enable them to better integrate into local communities.
In April, Raymond Siu Chak-yee, Hong Kong's Commissioner of Police, said during the event celebrating the 10th anniversary of "Project Gemstone" that more than 30 students of the program had joined the disciplined services so far, including the police force, correctional services, fire services and customs.
The HKSAR government endeavored to provide learning and development opportunities to benefit more ethnic minorities, he added.
Ifzal and Heina, who are beneficiaries of "Project Gemstone" and "Project Himalaya," often take part in the rich and diverse activities of the programs during their leisure time, teaching the students Chinese skills and sharing tips for police exam preparations as tutors.
"It's reciprocal. The society has helped me considerably, so I want to give back to the society," Ifzal told Xinhua.
Heina hoped that she could set an example for her South Asian peers and encourage them to chase their dreams.
"Everyone has a chance. You are all able to realize your dreams so long as you are willing to work hard to reach the requirements," she said.
Looking ahead, both Ifzal and Heina said they would continue to dedicate themselves to social activities that can promote ethnic harmony and inclusion, and steadily perform their duties in the police force.
Heina has made several trips to Shenzhen in neighboring Guangdong Province and is deeply impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of the people there.
It was her wish to travel to more mainland cities and "tick off" the gorgeous scenic spots in the vast mainland.
"I am a Hong Kong police of China. So, I'll definitely go and visit numerous places in the mainland in the future," she said with a beaming smile on her face.