The opposition fears the new weapons carry risks and want to be consulted before the guns are deployed
Stun guns may become a new and unconventional weapon for frontline police in Hong Kong, allowing them to incapacitate troublemakers before they put up any resistance while being apprehended.
Hong Kong’s police have not been sitting idle, despite a respite in the demonstrations that have rocked the city and involved vandalism and pitched street battles between radicals and officers.
During the lull in protests, the police’s top brass have been searching for more effective non-lethal weapons for its officers as another round of street battles could erupt at anytime.
Stun guns, or Tasers, are now at the top of a list of unconventional tools following extensive research and trials with potential overseas suppliers, according to the South China Morning Post and Ming Pao daily.
The police force has discovered its current armory of crowd-control and non-lethal weapons has been incapable of tackling the increasingly rabid rioters and vandals, with the city’s still lingering social unrest ignited by a now-withdrawn China extradition bill since June.
A police source said constables usually had to pin protesters to the ground to handcuff them and then drag or bundle them into police cars, and agitated protesters often struggle and resist. Such scenes have been caught on video many times and fuel accusations of police brutality.
He added that many officers want the stun guns to quickly subdue troublemakers to keep themselves and arrestees safe and keep other radicals at bay.
Stun guns are already used by law enforcement agencies across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and Singapore. Many of the hand-held models are about the size of a TV remote or calculator and they must touch the subject when used.
The jolt stuns the target with an electric current and causes an uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and the target is immobilized and falls to the ground.
The stun guns in use in the UK can reportedly give a jolt of up to 50,000 volts, so police must follow strict guidelines, including a ban on use against children, pregnant women and the elderly.
A previous survey by Reuters found more than 1,000 fatal cases in which stun guns or similar devices were used during policing in the US alone since 2000.
Human rights advocacy groups and members of the city’s pan-democratic camp have called on the police to conduct consultations and make more information available given the prevailing mistrust of the force, before arming officers with the new weapons.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee did not confirm or deny reports about the new stun guns for the police when pressured by lawmakers for more details, stressing only that the government would always support the police in trialing methods and gear to maintain peace and order in a more challenging and chaotic environment and protect everyone on a protest site.
Indeed, the police discussed procuring electroshock weapons in its annual budget about 10 years ago, but eventually dropped the idea when faced with opposition from pro-democracy lawmakers.