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Sunday, Sep 20, 2020

Hong Kong police receive 1,200 complaints over handling of anti-government protests

Officers face barrage of allegations during increasingly violent unrest, no one has been disciplined so far. Security chief reveals scale of protest response to lawmakers, with 10,000 tear gas rounds fired and more than 5,800 arrests

Hong Kong police have received more than 1,200 complaints over their handling of often violent anti-government protests, according to the city’s security minister, who added no officers have been disciplined so far.

John Lee Ka-chiu also told the Legislative Council there had been about 5,800 protest-related arrests since June, when the now-withdrawn extradition bill sparked months of unrest.

The demonstrations intensified this month as radicals repeatedly caused carnage during working hours, vandalising businesses with mainland China links, bringing down transport links and launching petrol bombs at police, who have hit back with tear gas, baton charges and mass arrests.

Of those detained at 900 demonstrations since June 9, 932 suspects have been charged, according to the government.

Some 2,600 people were injured during the protests and sent to hospital, including 470 police officers, Lee said when he appeared before the city’s legislature on Wednesday.

Lee said police had fired 19 live rounds during demonstrations, including three that hit protesters, who had all been discharged from hospital.

The security minister was responding to a series of written and spoken questions posed by the pan-democrats, relating to police conduct at demonstrations.

Among those seeking answers were education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen and Civic Party legislator Kwok Ka-ki, who dug into specific incidents such as the spraying of blue dye at the entrance of Kowloon Mosque on October 20 and the shooting of a 21 year-old protester with a live round in Sai Wan Ho on November 11.

News footage shows a police officer drew his service revolver and started to grapple with another protester, shooting Chow when he approached, seemingly unarmed.

The force later accused Chow of trying to snatch the officer's gun, and arrested him for illegal assembly.



In other instances, officers have fired warning shots or ones aimed at protesters when they were outnumbered and faced with bricks and petrol bombs.

The number and nature of complaints against police were also requested by medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan and Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun.

Lee said the Complaints Against Police Office, an internal department of the force, had received 1,261 complaints concerning officers’ responses to protests since June 9.

Lee said that 467 of those were reported by the individuals allegedly subjected to misconduct, and all complaints were still being processed.

“Hence at this stage there has not been action taken against police officers due to complaints,” Lee said.

“Discipline is important to the police force and [officers] must act in accordance with the law.”

Chan told Lee he was outraged by what the lawmaker said was the arrest of about 80 volunteer paramedics, bound by zip ties, when they left Hong Kong Polytechnic University last week.

Among their number were registered doctors and nurses, Chan said.

The Hung Hom campus was the scene of violent clashes between hard-core protesters and police earlier this month, leading police to surround the grounds in a siege ongoing since November 17.

“Does the minister know obstructing rescue work is against international humanitarian law?” Chan said.

The doctor also asked if the government would apologise to those medical professionals he said were arrested at PolyU.

Lee said police had to verify why people were inside the barricaded campus, adding about 10 individuals claimed to be paramedics but did not have relevant identification documents on them.

About 1,100 people who were inside the campus during the police lockdown were arrested.

Police declared the daytime unrest on November 17 a riot before surrounding the campus.



The university continued to search for the remaining few protesters believed to still be inside the campus on Wednesday, but failed to locate anyone.

In written replies to lawmakers, Lee refused to disclose the chemicals used by police for crowd dispersal, including the ingredients of pepper spray, the blue-dye from water cannon and tear gas.

Lee also denied lawmakers’ request to know where police had bought their weapons, saying it would be inappropriate to disclose the information as it “would affect police's operational capability”.

Police had deployed about 10,000 rounds of tear gas since June, it was revealed in another written reply.



The highest number of tear gas canisters deployed on a single day was on November 12, when police fired 2,300 shots across seven districts.

On that day, hard-core protesters and police engaged in violent clashes inside Chinese University’s Sha Tin campus, exchanging petrol bombs and less-lethal ammunition, such as beanbag rounds and rubber bullets.

Meanwhile, it has emerged police officers were offered a one-off subsidy of up to HK$860 for new car licence numbers and plates if they had been doxxed since June.

The police’s cybersecurity and technology crime bureau said late last month that it had received over 2,600 complaints about officers and their families being doxxed, the malicious practice of posting a person’s private data online.

According to an internal memo, officers were required to sign a declaration they had been a victim, but did not need to provide additional proof.

The protests were ignited by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed for the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China, but have developed into a wider anti-government movement, with demands including restarting the city’s stalled political reform process.

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