LCQ6: Ensure public peace and safety

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon James To in the Legislative Council today (March 26):


     The Working Group on Civic Education (Working Group) under the Central and Western District Council held a meeting on the 6th of this month to scrutinise funding applications for Basic Law promotional activities.  At the beginning of the meeting, the Chairman of the Working Group refused to allow members of the public and journalists to observe the meeting.  An argument then erupted between a District Council (DC) member present at the meeting and the Chairman about the arrangement.  The journalists at the scene were evicted from the meeting venue by security guards afterwards, and that DC member was carried away from the conference room by police officers.  In response to the above incident, the Chief Executive (CE) said that "the Police have all along acted in accordance with the law", and the Commissioner of Police (CP) pointed out that the Police had the responsibility of "ensuring the peace of society".  However, some members of the public have raised concerns and queried whether the Police have abused their power and intervened in the operation of DCs.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of police officers arriving at the scene on that day to handle the incident, and the handling methods proposed by them; whether the police officers at the scene received any request for carrying the DC member away from the conference room; whether they had sought the approval of their superior officers before taking that action; whether they had explained to the DC member the reasons for carrying him away; how they had carried him away; and why they did not allow him to return to the conference room;

(2) whether there was any serious act of violence at the scene when the argument erupted among members of the Working Group; if so, of the details; if not, as the Working Group was holding a meeting in the DC conference room at that time, of the legal basis for the Police to carry the DC member away from the conference room and obstruct him from discharging his duty of attending meetings; the meaning of "acted in accordance with the law" and "peace of society" as referred to respectively by CE and CP; the legal basis for their aforesaid remarks; and

(3) whether it will review if the Police have abused their power in the aforesaid incident; and of the measures in place to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents so as to safeguard DC members' right to attend meetings, and ensure that the operation of DCs is free from any unreasonable police intervention?



     According to the law of Hong Kong, the Police have the duty and power, under section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance (Cap. 232), to take reasonable and appropriate measures to preserve the public peace, protect personal safety, prevent crimes and injury to property, etc.

     Upon receipt of requests for assistance from the public in case of unforeseen or emergency incidents, the Police shall perform their statutory duties by immediately deploying officers to the scene to understand the situation, provide assistance or conduct investigations.  After arriving at the scene, police officers shall take reasonable and appropriate actions in the light of the circumstances to preserve the public peace, protect personal safety and prevent injury to property.  Unless otherwise specified in the law, the Police are required to discharge their statutory duties at both public and private places.  Actions shall be taken by the person-in-charge or security personnel at the scene to handle disorderly conduct at a private place.  Only when the peace is breached or there is a threat to personal safety will police officers take reasonable and appropriate measures to intervene or provide assistance in a bid to ensure public peace and safety of the people at the scene.

     My reply to the Hon James To's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Upon receipt of a request for assistance in the afternoon of March 6, 2014 about somebody creating a nuisance in a meeting room, the Police deployed officers of a patrol sub-unit to the scene for rendering assistance.  Despite repeated requests from the person-in-charge of the meeting and the security personnel, two persons at the location refused to leave and the deadlock extended into the early evening.  One of the aforementioned persons struggled with the security personnel on a number of times while the latter attempted to remove the two persons from the meeting room.  During the scuffle, a security guard fell on the ground.  The person-in-charge asked the police officers at the scene to pay due regard to the situation and to give advice on the means to handle the incident.  The police officers clearly explained to the person-in-charge that any disorderly conduct should be handled by the security personnel, and that the Police would intervene in circumstances such as a breach of the peace was likely to occur or had occurred, or when harm was likely to be done to any person.  The security personnel once again asked the person to leave the meeting room, but to no avail.  In the process, there was again a struggle and, hence, confusion, during which a security officer fell on the ground.  Having contemplated that the scenario became chaotic again, the police officers, with due consideration of the safety of all persons at the scene and after giving their advice to the person involved, assisted the security personnel to bring that person out of the meeting room, as a means to prevent further aggravation of the conflict and to safeguard any person from injury.  The other person was removed by other security guards from the meeting room at the same time.

     During the incident, the police officers on the spot, while playing an assisting and mediating role, remained neutral in the course of discharging police duties of preserving the public peace and protecting personal safety pursuant to section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance.  Their actions on that day were by no means an interference in the operation of any council.

     As at March 20, 2014, two complaints have been received by the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) in respect of the incident.  The CAPO is handling these cases in a fair and just manner according to the statutory mechanism of handling complaints against Police.

(3) Management of District Council (DC) venues are under the purview of respective District Offices.  Where necessary, security guards may be arranged to assist in security matters like maintenance of order of the meeting and handling of possible disorder at the venue.

     According to DCs' Standing Orders, the chairman of the respective meeting may issue warnings to a person attending or sitting in on a meeting whose behavior mabehaviourt the orderly conduct of the meeting.  The person may be ordered to leave the place of the meeting if the misbehaviormisbehaviourespite warnings; in such circumstances, the security personnel may, under the instruction of the chairman-in-charge of the meeting, escort the person concerned out of the meeting room.

     As mentioned above, the Police handle all reports in an impartial manner, irrespective of any individuals calling for help in case of an incident or any councils requesting for assistance.  When a breach of the peace is likely to occur or has occurred, or when harm is likely to be done to any person, the Police will intervene by taking reasonable and appropriate actions in light of the circumstances to preserve public order, protect personal safety and prevent injury to property.

     I have to reiterate that the police officers handled the case on that day in accordance with the normal procedures upon receipt of a "request for police assistance".  The actions taken were in no way or by no intention an intervention of the DC's operation.  It was definite that there was no "abuse of power" on the part of the Police.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:50