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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Cops set two-hour mark on fake news

Cops set two-hour mark on fake news

What is deemed to be fake new about the SAR's police force must be cleared up quickly to prevent confusion, Hong Kong's police chief said yesterday.
Commissioner Raymond Siu Chak-yee also claimed that fake news targeting the administration had an impact on the 2019 social unrest.

While the appearance of phony news had caught the force off guard, Siu said yesterday, he is now confident officers will be able to debunk fake news within a two-hour period "because if we don't some people will gradually believe it to be the truth."

The force's public relations wing commissioned a company in August to monitor online discussions or news on police activity using big data analysis and to identify whether those claims were untrue or defamatory.

It was found that teenagers who were arrested spent four to five hours a day on social media, he said, and "there was a lot of propaganda to discredit the government and the police."

Siu also said more public relations work should be done to improve the image of the government and the police, recalling that some front-line police officers had to wear adult diapers when clashing with protesters in 2019 as they were unable to enter shopping malls to relieve themselves.

He said the police have been making "every effort" over the past three years to strengthen ties with the general public and to enhance the transparency of the force's work.

"We've been attempting to reconnect with the public, particularly those who have critical views of the police," he said.

Siu added that "society" should give arrested teenagers a second chance, but that in order to do so parents, teachers and social workers must provide assistance.

He also said police superintendents will have discretion for relatively minor crimes that could mean exempting offenders from having a criminal record, but protocols will remain the same for serious crimes and repeat offenses.

"The most important thing is to know how to abide by the law and cherish the opportunities you are given," Siu said. "If you can do that there can still be a good future ahead."

The force is currently understaffed, employing around 27,000 officers with 5,000 vacancies, Siu said, citing challenges in recruitment amid a resignation wave and a declining labor market.

When asked if there was still be room for protests in Hong Kong after the national security law was passed in 2020, Siu noted that freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the Basic Law, but every demonstration must be evaluated before approval.

In 2019, Siu said, the force made a comprehensive risk assessment of each assembly application, taking into account factors such as public order and public safety.

"But it is worth thinking about the fact that in the past nearly 100 percent of assembly applications were approved."

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