Andy Lai is best known as The Chinese cop, even though he has retired. He is that famous.
Andy Lai retired from Hampshire Constabulary last year, but his police image stays with the people who know him.
I call him The Chinese Cop in Hampshire.
In this area, when the Chinese people need help (or if they are in any trouble), Andy Lai is probably the first person they would ring up.
Today Andy Lai is sharing with us his passion, his community, and his ambition.
Andy Lai was probably the only Chinese police officer who had served in both the UK and HK police services. Before coming to Hong Kong just before 1997, Andy was a police inspector with the Royal Hong Kong Police.
Andy served in the Hampshire Constabulary since May 1995 till March 2013, a total of 18 years. He was an Engagement Officer in Southampton Central Police Station.
Passion for life and community
When you speak to Andy, you’ll sense he is filled with a passion for life and a strong sense of community. Andy is enthusiastic. He is the Vice Chairman of Chinese Association of Southampton, an organisation which connects, supports and informs many Chinese people in the community.
In 2011, Andy also helped set up the UK & HK Chinese Police Association, and he is currently the Secretary. Why did Andy set up this organisation?
Andy told me that there are quite a few retired Hong Kong police officers in the UK, and he felt it important to foster the link between the Chinese cops and the British cops, to improve communications and support one another.
Who are the Chinese Cops in Hampshire?
Talking to Andy I learned a great deal about the history of the Chinese contribution to the UK police force.
Andy told me that in Hampshire, the first Chinese police officer was Joe Hon, who later retired and is currently the Chairman of the Chinese Association of Southampton. Andy was the second Chinese police officer, followed by Simon Tam and Eric Wong.
Andy’s passion is almost infectious. He genuinely cares for the people in his community, especially vulnerable people. Once when he was off duty, Andy received a phone call and a Chinese lady was in distress as her house had just been burgled.
“I quickly reported back on duty, put on my uniform, went to help this lady straightaway. The Chinese lady couldn’t speak English.”
By Andy Lai
How do you see your role in the society, Andy?
“With the Chinese Association, we act as a bridge to connect people. We share our experiences, and we also help people to learn, to integrate into the society, to understand and respect diversity. For examples, we run educational, social and medical events regularly in our Association to support many Chinese people in our community.”
“There are two main purposes. We want to make the minority to approach the mainstream, and the mainstream to approach the minority.”
By Andy Lai
58 Chinese bodies: Dover Docks in 2000
What was Andy’s most memorable case in his 18-year career with the Hampshire police?
To Andy, one unforgettable scene was the harrowing deaths of 58 Chinese who were found dead in the back of a lorry at Dover Docks, in June 2000.
Later in 2001, the Dutch lorry driver was convicted of the manslaughter of the 58 Chinese illegal immigrants, and was jailed for 14 years. It was one of the largest mass killings in British criminal history. The 58 Chinese were suffocated in the back of his lorry en route to Dover.
Andy and another Chinese colleague were both sent to Dover for three months to help with the investigations: getting their DNA, fingerprints, and more importantly, encouraging the families to report the missing persons.
What is Andy doing now?
Andy told me that he never regrets his life as a gun-carrying police officer in Hampshire. However he is now working as Training Director at Task Forces Training Centre, to help support and advise young people who might want to join the police force.
Andy likes being active and he derives joy from volunteering and supporting the communities. He organised the Chinese New Year parades, including the Lion Dance performances, in Southampton city centre in the past with great success.
If you have ever enjoyed the Lion Dance parade and entertainment in Southampton city centre during the Chinese New Year, you have Andy to thank for. In the past few years, I enjoyed the traditional Chinese singing and dancing and Kung-fu in Southampton like many people who travelled miles to appreciate the Chinese New Year celebration. It was a huge task to bring these cultural events to the city. Andy with his brilliant organisation has brought the community joy, and contributed so much to our understanding of the Chinese culture.
Andy told me he has an ambition.
“I would like to become the first Chinese City Councillors for the Conservative Party in Southampton.”
By Andy Lai
There hasn’t been any Chinese Councillor in Hampshire. Andy wants to become the first one. He is enthusiastic about his communities, about Hampshire, and with his marvellous track record, he stands a good chance to climb higher, to be recognised, and to fulfil his ambition.
Speaking to Andy was a great joy. He was genuinely interesting, capable yet unassuming, with a good sense of humour. We had a lovely discussion of why Chinese people love eating Chicken Feet.
Andy’s daughter June Lai has just returned home from conquering Mount Kilimanjaro. Andy Lai is a proud citizen, and also a proud father.