LCQ6: Unlawful assemblies in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Fernando Cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (January 21):


     It has been reported that on a number of occasions last month, the Police arbitrarily cordoned off areas on the pavements in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay and demanded people in the cordon areas to leave immediately. The Police displayed for a number of times yellow flags to warn those people who failed to leave immediately that they were taking part in unlawful assemblies, and demanded them to produce their identity cards for record. It has also been reported that the Police arrested over 200 road occupiers during the clearance operation in Admiralty last month and subsequently demanded the arrested persons to complete a new Voluntary Personal Background Information form to provide information irrelevant to their cases, including the schools attended, past occupations and particulars of family members. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective justifications of the Police for setting up the aforesaid cordon areas and declaring that people in the cordon areas were taking part in unlawful assemblies; the criteria based on which the Police recorded the identity card information of people on the street, and whether they have assessed if such a practice contravenes the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance; if they have assessed, of the outcome; and

(2) whether the Police will use the Voluntary Personal Background Information form in future; of the reasons for obtaining from the arrested persons information irrelevant to the cases concerned; whether they did that in the past; whether the Police have assessed if such a practice has gone beyond what is needed for the investigation of the cases concerned and is tantamount to excessive collection of personal data; if they have assessed, of the outcome; for what purpose such data are to be used and when such data will be destroyed?



     According to section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance (Cap 232), the duties of the Police Force include taking lawful measures for preserving the public safety and public order. The Administration's consolidated reply to the question raised by Dr Hon Fernando Cheung is as follows:

Unlawful assemblies in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay

     After the re-opening of the blocked roads in Mong Kok in end-November 2014, some protesters gathered along various road sections in the district, including Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Nathan Road, Soy Street and Argyle Street, for "mobile occupation" in consecutive nights. Among the protesters were a number of troublemakers and radicals. On one pretext or another, such as "shopping together" and "waiting for someone else" as claimed, dropping money and picking it up deliberately, and crossing the road back and forth, they caused road blockage, disturbed public order and created nuisance to shop businesses by rummaging the goods, blocking shop accesses and even causing obstruction to shop attendants who tried to roll down the gates and close their shops. Worse still, some of them deliberately sneaked into the crowd, inciting people on the scene to provoke police officers and insult them with abusive language to create chaos on purpose. Some radicals even carried with them items such as refuse bins and dashed onto roads where traffic was running, in an attempt to cause road blockage. Their acts posed serious threat to road users and drivers. The protesters deliberately stirred up troubles everywhere, disrupted social order and obstructed the Police's enforcement actions. Residents, shop operators and road users in the district were in great distress as a result of the incident.

     Similar situations were seen in Causeway Bay for many nights. Claimed to be "shoppers", the protesters assembled on Yee Wo Street and blocked the pavements, attempted to obstruct traffic and disrupt public order. Nearby business operators and members of the public were unduly worried because of such malicious and disturbing acts. For fear of inviting persistent harassment, many shop operators were compelled to stay silent, while some even chose to close their shops early, at the expense of their businesses and the livelihood of their employees as well as locals and tourists who genuinely wanted to shop. As a result, the image of Hong Kong as an international city has been tarnished. The general public would not agree to these disturbing acts which went against law and order or other people's rights.

     According to section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance, the duties of the Police Force include taking lawful measures for preserving the public safety and public order, preventing crimes and offences, controlling traffic upon and removing obstructions from public thoroughfares, etc. Section 6 of the Public Order Ordinance empowers the Commissioner of Police to control and direct the conduct of all public gatherings if he reasonably considers it to be necessary in the interests of public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. As the abovementioned assemblies had led to chaos on the spot, disruption to social order and severe impact on public life and road users' rights, the Police had to take appropriate measures in accordance with the Police Force Ordinance and the Public Order Ordinance, including exercising controls on certain roads and dispersing people illegally assembling along individual pavements, in a bid to effectively ensure public safety and public order and avoid aggravation. Before the operations, the Police had, by means of loudspeakers and warning banners, repeatedly given advice and warnings, indicating that the protesters were participating in an unauthorised assembly. To this end, they were required to leave in a peaceful and orderly manner as soon as possible. During the incidents, those who were on business and those who resided in the area did have ample time and opportunities to leave. Against Police advice, some protestors continued to yell and dash around. To avoid aggravation, the Police took decisive actions to disperse those unlawfully assembling on the scene.  

     Under section 54 of the Police Force Ordinance concerning "Power to stop, detain and search", a police officer who finds any person in any street or other public place whom he reasonably suspects of having committed or of being about to commit or of intending to commit any offence may stop the person for the purpose of demanding that he produce proof of his identity for inspection.

     Since the re-opening of the blocked roads in Mong Kok, the Police have arrested around 320 persons in the district, involving such offences as resisting arrest, disorderly conduct in a public place, possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage, assault on a police officer, and obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duties. The Police are examining the evidence collected for investigating the liability to be borne by the persons involved.

Recording personal background information of arrestees

     It is an established practice of the Police to take statements against arrestees, including their background information. All statements shall be taken from arrestees on a voluntary basis. Such procedures for taking statements have been in place for a long time. Statements are taken by police officers from arrestees, who may alternatively choose to make their own written statements.

     When handling the cases relating to the illegal "Occupation Movement", the Police did not devise any so-called new "Voluntary Personal Background Information form".

     In collecting personal data from the persons involved, the Police are in strict compliance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap 486, Hong Kong Laws). The data so collected are proportionate to the objective of prevention and detection of crimes, in line with actual needs and not excessive. Such data will be destroyed upon completion of investigation and legal proceedings in accordance with the established practice.

Ends/Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:04