Hardliner Chris Tang says force will buy tear gas from China and Eastern Europe and was not affected by possible sanctions
Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s newly-installed Commissioner of Police, has shrugged off fears that the two acts signed by US President Donald Trump on Thursday – the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Protect Hong Kong Act – would have any effect on him and the police force.
Tang, seen as a hardliner who succeeded Stephen Lo this month to lead the city’s 40,000-strong law enforcement team to tackle mob violence and restore order, told reporters at police headquarters on Thursday that a massive dragnet was closing in on hardcore radicals after six months of unrest.
“It’s now easier for officers to identify and go after troublemakers after all these months and soon we will regain control of every corner of the city to prove to Hongkongers the force has all the capabilities to police the place,” said Tang, who has been heavily involved in quelling the still incessant protests.
He commanded the pitched battles against petrol bomb-hurling radicals under a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets during the force’s 10-day siege of the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Tang also issued a stern warning about the “heightened risks” of terrorism facing Hong Kong, which used to be hailed as one of the world’s safest major cities alongside Singapore, Tokyo and Copenhagen.
However, now that civil disobedience and mass rallies had morphed into arson, vandalizing public transportation infrastructure and lone-wolf attacks, vigilance must prevail at all times, he said.
He also added that there had been no intelligence suggesting any imminent danger.
He also sought to justify the police’s use of tear gas barrages during confrontations, stressing the non-lethal crowd control tool could keep large numbers of protesters at bay and avoid direct scuffles with officers and eliminate casualties on both sides.
There has been no loss of life during the numerous increasingly chaotic running battles between the two sides as protests entered their 24th week since June.
He said the force could consider using other more powerful non-lethal weapons including wooden projectiles when faced with stiff resistance as emergencies may still erupt, although the situation had eased significantly in the past two weeks, according to the Ming Pao Daily and Sing Tao Daily.
Asked if the Protect Hong Kong Act outlawing US exports of tear gas, rubber bullets and the like would put further strain on the force’s procurements as its stocks had been running low, Tang confirmed rumors that the police had already been replenishing inventory with China-made tear gas as well as equipment from eastern Europe.
The force noted in a recent document submitted to the Legislative Council that more than 10,000 tear gas canisters had been fired as of early November.
“We source our supplies from accredited manufacturers across the globe thus the [US act banning exports] will have no effect on us,” said Tang.
The Hong Kong police in the past did import tear gas from manufacturers in the US, like the Pennsylvania-based Nonlethal Technologies, a longstanding supplier of tear gas and pepper spray. The family-run business also sells products to law enforcement agencies in Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain.
However, many believe the China-made replacements emit more pungent fumes and burn at a higher temperature, producing possible carcinogens including dioxin.
Tang also said he did not worry about the other US act proposing sanctions against mainland Chinese cadres and local officials, including members of the top brass of the police, if they were perceived as muzzling Hong Kong’s personal and civil liberties.
“I do not have a home in the US, nor a bank account or a kid attending a school there, therefore the act has nothing to do with me,” he said, warning that many American cities including New York and Los Angeles who ran exchange programs with the force would lose opportunities to compare notes on taming riots if they chose to sever ties.