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Opening remarks by Commissioner of Police at press conference

     Following are the opening remarks by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Tsang Wai-hung, at the press conference today (December 15):

     In the past 79 days, the unlawful assemblies and illegal blockage of major thoroughfares have seriously disrupted the public order and undermined the rule of law, which is the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success.

     Today, Police opened the last section of illegally blocked road in Causeway Bay and fully restored normal traffic and public order.  The Police operation continued to be highly transparent and officers highly professional and restrained.

     In order to avoid large scale confrontations and bloodshed, Police have exercised a high degree of tolerance and restraint in the past 79 days to deal with the illegal acts of unlawful assemblies and illegal blockage of major thoroughfares at various locations in Hong Kong.

     Police are grateful to members of the public for the support and trust, and ample time given to resolve this crisis. I would also like to express my gratitude to each member of the Force who has remained steadfast, devoted and forbearing at this difficult time and completed the mission of maintaining law and order and safeguarding public safety and public order.

     In the past 79 days, Police took resolute actions to stop the violent acts of some protesters and prevent confrontations between the supporters and opponents of the illegal occupation, and protect individuals including the illegal occupiers whose safety was under threat.  No matter how complicated or dangerous the situation was, or how onerous the missions were, our officers did their best to ensure public order and public safety.  The difficulties and complexity of this operation were unprecedented.  The duration of the illegal occupation, the vast number of protesters involved, the mobilisation capability of organisers, as well as factors such as the methods used, the radical acts undertaken by protesters could not all be anticipated.

     Police have all along remained tolerant and restrained.  However, Police still have to use the minimum level of force when confronted with violent behaviours and chaotic situations mostly on the following nine days including:

September 28
Protesters charged the Police and Police cordon outside the Central Government Offices.

October 3  
Persons supporting and opposing the illegal occupation had major confrontation in Mong Kok.

October 15
Illegal occupiers dashed onto Lung Wo Road and occupied the major thoroughfares.

October 17
Illegal occupiers re-occupied the re-opened sections of roads in Mong Kok and charged the Police.

October 18
Illegal occupiers charged the Police and attempted to extend the illegally occupied areas in Mong Kok.

November 19
Protesters stormed the Legislative Council Building and caused wanton damages.

November 25
Illegal occupiers scattered around and attempted to block the roads in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei after Police had assisted the execution of Injunction Order in Mong Kok.

November 26
Large groups of illegal occupiers gathered at night and attempted to block the roads from Mong Kok to Tsim Sha Tsui after Police had assisted the execution of Injunction Order in Mong Kok.
November 30
Protesters blockaded the Central Government Offices and charged the Police.

     While handling these incidents, Police have to take into account the acts and resistance of the illegal occupiers to decide the necessary and proportional response, including the use of minimum level of force.  I stress that Police have strict guidelines on the use of force. Force is used only for the purpose of achieving lawful purpose.  When the lawful purpose has been achieved, the use of force will cease.  I must also point out that Police will not have to resort to the use of force if the persons involved comply with Police advice and follow the instruction to leave, and do not commit any criminal acts, put up resistance or charge the Police.

     As of today (December 15), a total of 955 persons have been arrested for committing various offences relating to the illegal occupation.  Police will endeavour to complete the investigations as soon as possible, including arresting other offenders, particularly the principal instigators.  Our target is to complete all investigations within three months.

     During the confrontations, many police officers and protesters got injured.  In this period, a total of 130 police officers were injured and 221 protesters received medical treatment through Police arrangement.  Police do not want to see anyone getting injured, whether they are protesters or Police officers.  However, in order to stop the violent acts and chaotic situations, Police had no other alternative but to use the minimum level of force.  The number of injured officers clearly reflects the danger officers have to face whilst carrying out their duties.  On December 11, a Sergeant felt unwell when taking part in the road-reopening operation.  He was later found unconscious without heartbeat and was rushed to hospital.  At present, he is still in a coma and receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit.  His condition remains critical.  All members of the Force wish him early recovery.

     Police are aware of the community's concerns over the illegal occupation and the dissatisfaction expressed by certain members of the public with the Police operations.  As at this morning, the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) has received complaints from 1,972 complainants, among them, 106 are reportable complaints.  Majority of them are allegations of 'Neglect of Duty' and 'Unnecessary Use of Authority'.  Only about seven per cent of the complainants, i.e. 137 persons, are the aggrieved parties or directly affected parties. The remaining over 90 per cent are mostly members of the public who lodged complaints after watching media footages, reports or other information on the Internet.

     CAPO will investigate and handle all these complaints in accordance with the established procedures in a fair and impartial manner.  CAPO has set up three designated special investigation teams to handle these complaints.  Observers of Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) will participate in observing the investigation process.  CAPO will report monthly to the IPCC Serious Complaints Committee on the progress of investigations.  CAPO will also submit investigation reports to IPCC for endorsement in accordance with the IPCC Ordinance.

     Police understand that members of the public hold different views on how Police have handled the illegal occupation.  We have received a lot of complaints, but we have also received many compliments from the public.  We will continue to execute our duties impartially in accordance with the law.

     I note that, after the blocked roads in Mong Kok and Admiralty were reopened, a number of protesters conducted public meetings and processions in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay by way of the so-called "mobile occupation".  These have caused serious nuisance to the local community including the shop operators.  Police urge members of the public not to take part in such activities.  We will closely monitor the development and take effective actions against any illegal acts according to the law.  Police also urge the protesters not to attempt to block the reopened roads, or other sections of roads.  Otherwise, we will take immediate and resolute actions to stop these unlawful acts.

     Police have all along respected the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  Members of the public who wish to express their views are advised to do so in a lawful, peaceful and orderly manner and not to undermine the public safety and public order.

     Police understand that the public may be concerned about the possible re-occupation of roads and the continuous acts of nuisance by some protesters.  In the coming days, Police will strengthen the deployment in various districts to maintain pubic order and safeguard public safety so that all Hong Kong citizens can enjoy the festive season cum Christmas and the New Year.

Ends/Monday, December 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:53


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