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LC Urgent Q3: Established policy of using minimum force by Police to maintain public order

     Following is an urgent question by Dr Hon Fernando Cheung under Rule 24(4) of the Rules of Procedure and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council yesterday (June 18):


     On the 13th of this month, when the Finance Committee (FC) of this Council was scrutinising the funding application relating to the North East New Territories New Development Areas (North East Development), more than 1 000 villagers who would be affected by the project concerned and other members of the public staged protests outside the Legislative Council Complex (the Complex), urging the Government to withdraw the related funding application. Some of the protesters attempted to enter the Complex and thus clashed with the police officers at the scene. The Police subsequently cleared the scene. A reporter alleged that the Police carried him away from the scene by force and some protesters also alleged that the Police inflicted pain on them by bending their joints. In addition, some protesters and personal assistants of Members were arrested by the Police and some of them claimed that while they were on police vehicles, some police officers hurled abuse at them, beat them with fists, hit their heads, spat at them, slapped them and pulled their hair. Given that FC will continue to scrutinise the aforesaid funding application this Friday and there may be conflicts again as it has been reported that there will be protests again, whether the Government has immediately reviewed if the practices of the Police in clearing the scene last Friday (including removing a reporter from the scene, and the process of bringing protestors back to the police station) were in compliance with the Police General Orders, particularly the principle of using minimum force; and whether it has put in place specific measures to further ensure that the law enforcement actions to be taken by the Police for handling the protests this Friday will comply with the Police General Orders?



     My reply to Dr Hon Fernando Cheung's question is as follows:

     During the meeting of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) on June 13, protesters forced themselves into the LegCo Complex by violent means, causing damage to various parts of the building. They seized and pushed over mills barriers, charged their way into various entrances of the Complex, smashed the glass doors at different places and damaged the building facade. The fire prevention door of one of the emergency exits was broken. The protesters' storming caused interruption to the LegCo Committee meeting. Six security officers of the LegCo and four Police officers were injured when carrying out their duties, and among whom, one security officer sustained a toe fracture. The protesters' violent acts posed serious threat to the personal safety of all those at the scene, which included LegCo Members, security officers and Police officers on duty, and even members of the public whose original intention was to express their views in a peaceful manner, thereby causing severe damage to public order and public peace.

     The actions taken by the Police that day were in response to the LegCo Secretariat's request for assistance. By means of their actions, which were in line with the established policy of using minimum force, the Police had effectively stopped the violent storming, ensured the personal safety of LegCo personnel and the public, as well as maintained public order. The Police's actions were lawful, necessary, reasonable and appropriate.

     The Police reiterate that they respect press freedom and the media's freedom of reporting, and fully recognise the importance of facilitating media coverage and maintaining effective communication with the media. The Police will, on the basis of mutual respect and understanding, continue to maintain a cordial relationship with the media and render all possible assistance to enhance mutual co-operation.

     For the accusations against police officers in Dr Hon Cheung's question, it will be unfair to both sides if we draw any conclusions before a thorough investigation is conducted. Any grievances over the Police's enforcement action may be taken to the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) according to the procedures stipulated in the law. The CAPO operates independently from other police formations to ensure impartiality in its investigation. It is responsible for handling and investigating public complaints against members of the police force. By adhering to the established procedures, the CAPO investigates and handles complaints in a fair and impartial manner, and their investigations are subject to review by the statutory Independent Police Complaints Council.

Ends/Thursday, June 19, 2014
Issued at HKT 21:10


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