Hong Kong police may have underestimated public sentiment in their handling of the Occupy Central protest, Apple Daily reported Monday, citing several retired officers.
They failed to anticipate that unfazed protesters would spill into the streets after police barricaded roads and overpasses and more people would join them.
Police commanders might have been convinced they could contain the crowds in the protest area outside government headquarters which had been the site of a week-long student protest, the former officers were quoted as saying.
Also, the police missed a golden opportunity to clear several protest sites in the early hours on Sunday when protesters had left Tim Mei Avenue, a major protest artery, before other participants arrived, they said.
At that time, the police were capable of clearing up to 10,000 demonstrators.
Meanwhile, the arrest and “unreasonably long” detention of Joshua Wong, a leader of the student movement, galvanized the protesters and drove more people to join the protest.
They were provoked even more when lawmakers Albert Ho, Emily Lau and Fernando Cheung were taken away while bringing equipment and protest materials to a protest site.
Their numbers grew to a point where they were beyond the capacity of the police to handle, the retired officers said.
The police have had to resort to tear gas and pepper spray — even rubber bullets, according to some reports — to hold off surging crowds.
By that time, the protest had spread to Central and Admiralty, they said.
Hong Kong’s reputedly hawkish police chief, Andy Tsang, has taken over the police operation, the report said.
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