Senior Hong Kong police officer mocked for wearing British pre-handover badge

HONG KONG (AFP) - As Hong Kong police trumpeted their partial clearance of another pro-democracy rally site on Friday, a senior officer made a major gaffe by donning a British colonial-era cap - 17 years after the territory was handed back to China.

Eagle-eyed netizens spotted senior superintendent Catherine Kwan wearing a pre-handover badge on her hat as she briefed reporters shortly after the dawn raid in the city's Mongkok district.

The mistake quickly went viral, causing mirth among web users who speculated whether the mistake was a quiet act of political defiance.

Some pro-democracy activists have adopted Hong Kong's colonial flag - and the Union Jack - as a symbol of opposition towards what they see as Beijing's increasing influence over the semi-autonomous city.

"Madam must know that she is supporting students in a special way," joked one commentator, Matthew Tse, on Facebook.

Another with the surname Kwok added: "It must be deliberate. How is it possible to mistakenly put something on that is 17-years-old?"

An embarrassed Kwan appeared for a second press conference later in the morning sporting the correct emblem and insisted the gaffe was an honest mistake.

"I did indeed wear the wrong hat this morning, and that has now been rectified," the South China Morning Post quoted her as saying.

"Sorry about that. I think this is a slip-up on my part and has nothing to do with the image of the police force," she added.

Hong Kong police's emblem was changed after the city's handover from Britain to China in 1997. The British insignia which Kwan mistakenly wore depicts the city's Victoria Harbour topped by a royal crown.

The correct post-handover emblem she switched to shows the city's harbourside skyline and the five petal bauhinia flower from Hong Kong's current red and white flag.

Tensions between protesters and police have soared in recent days following a string of violent flare-ups and the emergence of a video in which plainclothes officers were recorded assaulting a handcuffed demonstrator.

But while anger remains high, protesters have also revelled in lampooning officers online. Police spokesman Hui Chun Tak has become a regular target thanks to his daily 4pm press briefings since the protests began.

Protesters have nicknamed him "Hui Sir" and mocked his English with the catchphrase "I will now recap in English".

Multiple music mash-up videos of his press conferences have gone viral - including a techno and a dance remix - while a Facebook page mocking him called "HuiSir4pm" has 56,000 likes.