Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ2: Police assistance in executing injunction orders in Mong Kok

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Helena Wong and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):


     It has been reported that late last month, when assisting bailiffs in executing the injunction orders by the court at the occupied areas in Mong Kok and in subsequent operations to disperse the crowd, some police officers abused their powers, which included using excessive force on the occupiers and passers-by, arresting members of the public and reporters indiscriminately, and suppressing freedom of the press. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as it has been reported that during the operations, some police officers assaulted members of the public who were standing on the footpaths which were not covered by the injunction orders, hit their vital body parts (such as the head and the neck) with batons, pushed pedestrians onto the ground, and hurled abuses at the ethnic minority people, whether it has assessed if such behaviours of the police officers were justifiable, violated the Police General Orders (PGO), and reflected that the police officers had lost control of their temper; whether the authorities will make a public apology for this and how they will follow up the matter, as well as how they will prevent the occurrence of similar incidents;

(2) of the Police's justifications for arresting a crew member of a television station and a newspaper reporter respectively on the 25th and 27th of last month; whether the authorities have assessed if such arrests were targeted at individual media organisations and represented hostility towards reporters; as some online media reporters said that they had been obstructed by the Police in making coverage, of the criteria adopted by the Police for dealing with such reporters and the measures in place to ensure that reporters may cover news freely during police operations; given that at least 25 reporters have claimed to have been treated violently by police officers, how the authorities will follow up such cases; and

(3) as it has been reported that during the operations, a large number of police officers concealed their police identification numbers by the reflective vests which they were wearing or removed the numbers from their uniforms so that members of the public would not be able to identify them, whether the authorities have investigated if the police officers had violated the PGO by such acts and their justifications for so doing; if the investigation results indicate that such acts violated the relevant requirements or were attempts to avoid being complained, whether the authorities will penalise the police officers concerned, and how the authorities will prevent the occurrence of similar incidents?



     The issue that the Police rendered assistance to bailiffs in enforcing the court's injunction orders and Police's enforcement operations in Mong Kok in end-November was thoroughly discussed at the adjournment debate on December 3 and 4, during which I responded to Members' views in detail. Today, as Dr Hon Helena Wong is raising a further question on the Police's handling of the Mong Kok injunction orders, I would take this opportunity to reiterate that the orders issued by the High Court in relation to the injunction applications concerning the obstruction of certain roads in Mong Kok have given clear directions for the bailiff to request the assistance of the Police where necessary. It is also clearly stated in the court orders that the Police are authorised to arrest and remove any person whom a police officer reasonably believes or suspects to be obstructing or interfering any bailiff in carrying out his or her duties in enforcing the injunction order. The Judge of the Court of First Instance and the two Justices of Appeal of the Court of Appeal, when handling the injunction applications and related applications for leave to appeal respectively, clearly pointed out that the terms of the injunction orders had no bearing on the Police's enforcement power under general law.

     I hope that Members will stop directing their criticism only at the Police' ways of rendering assistance in clearing the obstructions and dispersal of crowds in breach of the injunction orders or other laws on that day, instead of choosing not to probe into, or even to the extent of ignoring the consequences of the protesters' disregard of the court's injunction orders and disruption of public order at the time.

     In their operations in Mong Kok, the Police discharged their duties in strict compliance with the law. The Police could carry out their duties in accordance with the wording or scope of the injunction orders and enforce the law in accordance with the statutory power conferred upon them under general law, including the Police Force Ordinance (Cap. 232). According to section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance, the duties of the Police Force include taking lawful measures for preserving the public peace; preventing crimes and offences; controlling traffic upon and removing obstructions from public thoroughfares, etc.

     I am of the view that the physical scuffles between the Police and the public and even the injuries sustained by both sides during the operations in Mong Kok were by no means a result of the Administration's non-interference. The Police did not, as alleged, curb press freedom and restrict Hong Kong residents' right and freedom of peaceful assembly, procession and demonstration under the Basic Law. As we always stress, members of the public shall not intentionally disrupt public order or take no heed of law and order. The fact that the unlawful "Occupy Central" or the "Occupy Movement" has been dragging on for over two months and full-scale clearance operations are yet to be launched has indicated that the Administration, including the Police, have been handling the incident with greatest tolerance. However, no one should infer that the Police are not enforcing the law. In fact, the Administration has repeatedly stressed that proper actions would be taken by the Police as and when appropriate to restore public order and protect public safety in a resolute manner.

     The Administration's reply to Dr Hon Wong's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Since the re-opening of the blocked roads in Mong Kok, some radical protesters unlawfully assembled at a number of roads in the district in the consecutive nights, trying to block the roads again. On one pretext or another, such as shopping together, picking up dropped money, crossing the road back and forth, waiting for someone else, those protesters caused road blockage, disturbed order and created nuisance to shop business. In an attempt to exhaust police manpower, such protesters deliberately stirred up troubles everywhere by inciting people on the scene to provoke the Police, charge the Police cordon, disrupt social order and obstruct the Police's enforcement actions. The residents, shop owners and road users in the district were in great distress as a result of the incident.

     On the few nights immediately following the enforcement of the injunction orders, some radical protesters created chaos by erecting barricades with iron railings and wooden pellets. Worse still, some people confronted police officers on the scene by deliberately throwing miscellaneous items like bamboo poles, water bottles and umbrellas at them. The Police immediately gave advice and warnings against the protesters' acts by broadcasting and displaying of warning banners, pointing out that the hard objects they had been throwing might injure other persons on the spot, including reporters covering the incident and passers-by. Despite the Police had given them ample time to leave, the people at the unlawful assemblies, instead of taking heed of it, continued to scurry around. To avoid aggravation of the situation, the Police had no alternatives but to take resolute actions to disperse the people at the unlawful assemblies and arrested suspected troublemakers in breach of law, with a view to restoring public order and protecting public safety.

     As a matter of fact, since the onset of "Occupy Central", the Police have repeatedly stressed that Mong Kok is a high risk area and have also on a number of occasions urged members of the public, particularly students, to refrain from going to the area to avoid unnecessary injuries in crowded and chaotic situation.

     The Police have the responsibility to take resolute measures to prevent injury to life and property. They have very clear guidelines and training as well as strict criteria for the use of force in that the force to be used shall be the minimum force necessary for achieving a lawful purpose. When handling public order events, field commanders shall assess the circumstances on the scene and exercise their professional judgement for appropriate actions, which include using the minimum force required. Prior to the use of force, police officers shall, as far as circumstances permit, give warnings while the person(s) involved shall be given every opportunity, whenever practicable, to obey police orders before force is used.
     News coverage by reporters during major police operations is mentioned in Dr Hon Wong's question. I have to stress that the Police always pay great respect to press freedom and attach great importance to their cooperation with the media and that they understand reporters' duty of news coverage. At a meeting with editorial and news department heads of major media organisations on November 28, senior management of the Police Force, while reiterating the Police's notion of respect of press freedom, explained the operational difficulties encountered by Police Officers in the midst of chaos at the scene. They also appealed for mutual understanding and mutual respect between frontline journalists and police officers at the scene.

     In fact, emergencies always arise in a split-second during large-scale confrontations. In covering news, reporters must take into account their own safety while at the same time cooperate with the Police to avoid hindrance to the latter. While involving themselves in news coverage of possible large-scale confrontations or chaotic situations, frontline reporters are advised by the Police to wear easily-identifiable clothing and take heed of on-scene police officers' instructions. To facilitate reporters' coverage, the Police shall continue to deploy officers from Media Liaison Team to the scene of large scale police operations in a bid to provide proper coordination and mediation as far as possible. To strengthen cooperation, the Police shall continue to maintain communication with the media and continue to provide them with assistance on the basis of mutual respect and understanding.

     In the discharge of duties, the Police are keenly aware of public expectation and the importance of taking enforcement actions in a restrained and professional manner. Throughout "Occupy Central" and the operations in Mong Kok, Police Officers, when confronted with troublemakers' violent charging, deliberate provocations and insults with foul languages, have as a whole demonstrated a high degree of restraint and tolerance. Any persons dissatisfied about the Police's enforcement operations, be they members of the public or reporters, may lodge a complaint and the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) shall follow up on such a complaint under a statutory two-tier police complaints handling mechanism, and shall submit its investigation report to the Independent Police Complaints Council for examination in accordance with the statutory requirements under the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance (Cap. 604). A total of 235 persons, including two reporters, were arrested by the Police during the operations in Mong Kok in end-November. All arrest cases shall be handled by the Police in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with established procedures.

(3) Concerning the uniform of Police Officers on duty, the Police have reminded frontline uniformed officers of the proper donning of uniform.  The CAPO shall, upon receipt of any relevant complaints, launch an investigation in a fair and impartial manner.

     In fact, as at December 8, CAPO received complaints from 1 952 members of the public about issues in relation to the Police's handling of the "Occupy Central". Of these, 101 cases had been categorised as reportable complaints. Generally speaking, in the event that a complaint case is found to be "substantiated" upon follow-up under the above two-tier police complaints handling mechanism, the officer(s) concerned may be subjected to disciplinary action or more severe punishment, depending on the nature and severity of the case.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:11


Print this page