Following is a question by Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (November 5):
The Chief Executive (CE) indicated earlier that external forces were involved in the Occupy Central movement, and that Hong Kong, being a part of China and a highly open city, was caught in a complicated international environment. When asked about whether he would disclose related evidence, CE indicated that he would duly consider the matter at appropriate time. In addition, during the period when the assemblies triggered by the Occupy Central movement (Occupy Central assemblies) were being held, physical confrontations occurred from time to time among assembly participants, people opposing the assemblies and police officers, causing injuries to many people of various sides. It was even reported that such confrontations involved triad members. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed if the fact that the evidence relating to the involvement of external forces in Hong Kong's affairs is not disclosed immediately will adversely affect national security and the stability of Hong Kong society; how the authorities will guard against the involvement of external forces in Hong Kong's affairs;
(2) whether it knows if persons advocating independence of Xinjiang, Xizang and Taiwan as well as Falun Gong have participated in the Occupy Central movement and are involved in Hong Kong's internal affairs; if it knows, of the details;
(3) as it has been reported that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of the United States has provided funds for pan-democratic organisations in Hong Kong in recent years for promoting the development of democracy in Hong Kong, whether it has taken the initiative to find out or investigate if NED has participated in the Occupy Central movement; if investigation has been conducted and the outcome is in the affirmative, of the details, including the political parties or organisations in Hong Kong which have received such funds and the amount of funds involved; if investigation has not been conducted, the reasons for that;
(4) whether it knows if triad members have participated in activities of organising, planning, commanding and funding assemblies in support of and opposing the Occupy Central assemblies; if the triad members have done so, of the details; the number of related triad members arrested by the Police so far, and whether prosecution will be instituted against them;
(5) whether it knows if personnel from the Ministry of State Security have participated in organising, planning, commanding and funding actions to charge at the participants of the Occupy Central assemblies by people opposing such assemblies; if such personnel have done so, of the details;
(6) since the occurrence of the Occupy Central assemblies, of the police manpower deployed by the Police for maintaining public order at assembly venues, and how the numbers of crimes such as robbery, theft, indecent assault, etc. in each District Council district compare with the corresponding numbers in the same period of the year before;
(7) since the occurrence of the Occupy Central assemblies, of the number of police officers who received psychological counselling due to excessive pressure, tendered resignation or refused to perform duty at areas where the assemblies were held;
(8) since the occurrence of the Occupy Central assemblies, of the respective maximum daily numbers of persons participating in such assemblies and those assemblies opposing the Occupy Central movement in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay, Admiralty and Central;
(9) of the total number of canisters of tear gas that the police officers handling the Occupy Central assemblies in the area around Admiralty on the 28th of September this year were equipped with; whether it has assessed if that number is adequate;
(10) whether it has assessed if the Police have adequate equipment (e.g. anti-riot shields, protective helmets, extendable batons and pepper spray, etc.) for handling the Occupy Central assemblies; if it has, of the outcome;
(11) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of canisters of pepper spray used by the Police since the occurrence of the Occupy Central assemblies; whether it has reviewed if any police officer had used pepper spray inappropriately; if it has conducted such a review, of the outcome;
(12) since the occurrence of the Occupy Central assemblies, of the respective response time performance of ambulances and fire appliances in each of the divisions under the Ambulance/Fire Commands, and the number of service calls attended at venues of such assemblies (set out in a table);
(13) according to the data obtained by the authorities, of the number of persons injured or feeling unwell in the Occupy Central assemblies so far, with a breakdown by the identity of such persons (i.e. assembly participants, police officers, tourists, journalists and other persons); among them, the number of persons who required hospital treatment;
(14) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of public properties (such as mills barriers, water barriers, rubbish bins, 3-coloured recycling bins, etc.) being damaged or stolen at venues of the Occupy Central assemblies so far, and the number of persons arrested by the Police for alleged vandalism of government properties; and
(15) given that in reply to a question raised at the meeting of this Council on the 15th of last month regarding whether the three initiators of the Occupy Central movement would be prosecuted, the Secretary for Security indicated that the Police would definitely conduct in-depth investigations into illegal acts and would take appropriate actions in due course, whether related investigations have been initiated by the Police, and of the circumstances under which it would be the appropriate time to institute prosecutions against the initiators, organisers and assembly participants of the Occupy Central movement?
Following a spate of unlawful acts by radical protesters, the public meeting on the pavement outside the Central Government Offices since September 26 has developed into an unlawful assembly affecting various areas on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. Protesters, staging large-scale unlawful assemblies in the areas of Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay in recent days as well as in Tsim Sha Tsui previously, have blocked a number of major trunk roads in an illegal manner. "Occupy Central" or the occupation movement has persisted for over a month, causing extremely widespread, serious and substantive impact on traffic and transport, emergency rescue services, Government operation, daily life of the community and even various kinds of economic activities. The Government severely condemns such irresponsible and illegal acts.
Our consolidated reply to Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai's question is as follows:
Since the beginning of "Occupy Central", different analyses have been made and views expressed by Hong Kong and overseas communities, politicians and media on whether external forces have been involved in or have influenced "Occupy Central" directly or indirectly. The issue has aroused concerns locally and overseas. In response to a question raised by the programme host at a TV interview on October 19, 2014 and when speaking at a media stand-up on October 21, 2014, the Chief Executive (CE) pointed out that the involvement of external forces in "Occupy Central" was not a mere speculation. Hong Kong, as part of China and itself a highly open city, has been operating within a rather complicated international environment and exposed to the influence of external forces.
At a regular press conference on October 20, 2014, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remarked that some foreign individuals and forces attempted to interfere with Hong Kong affairs, exert influence on Hong Kong's development, and even side with or incite illegal activities such as the "Occupy Central". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reiterated that Hong Kong affairs fell entirely within China's internal affairs, and the Chinese side resolutely opposed the intervention in Hong Kong affairs by any external forces in any form.
We believe that our community and the general public do not wish to see, and will not accept, any direct or indirect involvement of external forces in the internal affairs of Hong Kong or our nation, not to mention in such activities as "Occupy Central" which disrupts social order and breaks the law. Nor do they wish to see any change in the nature of Hong Kong's political or social activities or their complication as a result of influence of external forces. We understand that the general public and the Legislative Council are concerned about how external forces get involved in and have influenced "Occupy Central", and the impact so caused. However, the issue involves national and local security as well as a lot of other complicated and sensitive information. In dealing with matters of this kind, we consider it inappropriate for the HKSAR Government, as for any other governments, to conduct an open discussion. Having said that, the HKSAR Government will face and deal with the intervention of any external forces, to ensure that Hong Kongˇ¦s constitutional reform may proceed within the framework of the Basic Law and on the basis of the decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. As far as "Occupy Central" is concerned, the HKSAR Government will restore social order in accordance with the law as soon as possible. The CE has also indicated that the HKSAR Government would consider, at an appropriate time, how to disclose details of external forces' involvement and influence on "Occupy Central".
Demonstrations triggered by "Occupy Central"
Over the past month, "Occupy Central" has turned from a student assembly to an unlawful assembly with a mix of participants including a large number of people of different backgrounds and from different radical organisations, with some protesters forced their way into government buildings, violently charged the police cordon, seized mills barriers, assaulted police officers, occupied major trunk roads and paralysed the traffic. Their illegal occupation of roads is an act of deliberate contravention of the law in that they have blocked the roads with stolen government properties including mills barriers, rubbish bins and recycling bins, and have even put up large barricades with bamboo poles, wooden planks and plastic straps to reinforce their road blockage. As a result, emergency vehicles can neither gain direct access to nor pass through the illegally occupied areas, posing unnecessary safety risk to people in the neighbouring areas. We condemn such acts.
In recent days, there have been confrontations and crimes of different scales in various illegally occupied areas or in other "Occupy Central"-related public order events. In crowded areas, there is always a risk of confrontation. Gatherings of people holding different views are prone to verbal disputes and scuffles, which may end in chaos with physical confrontations. As at November 3, the Police have arrested 324 persons in total for illegal acts directly related to "Occupy Central". The alleged offences include unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in a public place, common assault, criminal damage, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duties, indecent assault and so forth. Some of the arrested persons have triad backgrounds. The cases involved in such arrests are currently under police investigation, and prosecution shall not be ruled out where sufficient evidence is available.
As crime figures are classified by police region and such figures for September and October this year are still under compilation, a comparison between the crime figures since the launch of "Occupy Central" for all districts and those in the same period of last year, as requested in the question, is not available.
The Police have stressed repeatedly their utter intolerance of illegal conduct. Where there is evidence for the alleged offences, the Police shall definitely take follow-up actions in accordance with the law, and seek advice from the Department of Justice when necessary for consideration of prosecution.
Handling of large-scale unlawful assemblies by the Police
As a law enforcement department, the Police have the statutory duties to maintain law and order, as well as to safeguard life and property. In the face of a considerable number of large-scale unlawful assemblies for more than a month, frontline police officers have been in full gear around the clock to deal with such assemblies and storming by groups of protesters, which involves substantial police manpower and resources, and they are, at the same time, well-equipped for the handling of such assemblies and the relevant police operations. To maintain day-to-day police services, the Police have allocated sufficient manpower to every region through resource and manpower deployment. However, the manpower and equipment utilised by the Police in the operation are not to be disclosed, as they were a matter of operational particulars. In addition, as the unlawful assemblies associated with "Occupy Central" are still on-going, the figure on the use of Oleoresin Capsicum foam in the operation is subject to verification.
The Police do not have any daily figures of people participating in assemblies for and against "Occupy Central" at various locations of unlawful occupation. As "Occupy Central" is still on-going, statistical information on stolen or damaged public property is not available at this point of time.
"Occupy Central" is still going on in different districts where large-scale unlawful assemblies have been involved. The complexity of Police's operations in response to "Occupy Central" is unprecedented. Police officers are facing immense challenge and are under enormous stress. The Force management has been maintaining close liaison and communication with officers of different ranks, rendering them support and encouragement, as well as listening to their views on the operations. Police Clinical Psychologists are assigned to visit police officers at the frontline to understand their needs and the state of their morale. Since the onset of "Occupy Central", the Police have received requests for psychological counselling from a total of five police officers and immediate assistance has been provided by the Psychological Services Group. Moreover, Force Welfare Officers have offered welfare support to those wounded in the operation. Up to now, the Police do not have any reports of resignation or refusal to perform duty at areas of assemblies from regular police officers due to stress.
During the operations in recent weeks, Hong Kong Police have stood fast to their posts and performed their duties with perseverance and untiring devotion in a professional and impartial manner while exercising a high level of restraint. The HKSAR Government fully supports the Police in their continued efforts to handle with professionalism such extremely difficult tasks.
Number of casualties
The storming and confrontations at different locations of unlawful assemblies in recent days have resulted in the injury of 65 police officers. According to the records of the Fire Services Department (FSD), as at November 3, a total of 262 persons, including 40 police officers, were sent to hospital by FSD ambulances due to injury or not feeling well during the protest assemblies. FSD does not have any breakdown of other categories of persons being sent to hospital.
The impact of "Occupy Central" on emergency rescue services
The illegal occupation of a number of major trunk roads by assembly participants on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon during "Occupy Central" has resulted in serious traffic congestion. Emergency vehicles often need to detour. Although various Government departments have been monitoring and assessing the development with a view to making corresponding arrangements, responses to some emergency calls have inevitably been delayed.
FSD has not compiled the statistics of the response time performance (RTP) of every individual ambulance/fire division since the start of "Occupy Central". Nonetheless, the department releases the RTPs of emergency ambulance services and building fire calls of the three affected areas on a daily basis. From the onset of "Occupy Central" up to November 3, the RTPs for emergency ambulance services in the three affected areas, i.e. Central (including Admiralty), Causeway Bay and Wanchai, and Mong Kok were 81.1%, 90.1% and 95.1% respectively, while the RTPs for building fire calls in Central, Causeway Bay and Wanchai, and Mong Kok were 84%, 94.1% and 86.5% respectively. The RTPs for emergency ambulance services and building fire calls in these three areas have dropped as compared to those before "Occupy Central".
The Administration reiterates that time is of vital importance in fire-fighting and rescue services as well as in emergency ambulance services. A small fire may turn into a disaster with severe loss of life and property because of a few minutes' delay. To those injured persons and patients requiring emergency ambulance services, one minute of delay can mean a difference between life and death. Hence, the Administration urges all protesters, who have illegally occupied the roads for a long span of time, to remove their obstacles as soon as possible and to leave in an orderly manner, so that the roads can be reopened to emergency vehicles for provision of timely emergency rescue services to those in need, sparing the public from unnecessary risks.
Ends/Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:59