Public confidence in Hong Kong’s police force appears to have plunged overnight in the wake of accusations that they used excessive force in dealing with pro-democracy activists.
Several frontline police officers said they were saddened by this development, but stressed that they had to fire tear gas at the protesters on Sunday night in order to avoid physical confrontations after their use of pepper spray failed to disperse the crowds, Ming Pao Daily reported on Tuesday.
The officers, who refused to be identified, said they were only executing orders given by their superiors.
Reports said some members of the force, particularly those in the middle and senior management, felt they were let down by Executive Council member Fanny Law, who on Monday criticized the force for using tear gas on the peaceful demonstrators Sunday night.
Law has asked the police to explain their actions in dealing with the protesters before the Executive Council. The use of tear gas had the opposite effect on the protest: the crowds swelled as more people joined the protest to express their anger at the use of violence against a peaceful mass action.
By mid-morning on Monday, riot police withdrew from the protest sites to help “cool off” the tense situation, but sources from the police force said they expect the protests to continue at least until Friday.
Cheung Tak-keung, assistant police commissioner for operations, told a news conference on Monday that the police force adjusted strategy in response to the situation at hand. He said the mood at the rally sites appeared to have eased.
Negotiators were sent to persuade the protesters not to obstruct road traffic, Cheung said, adding that the police force would continue holding dialogues with the protesters to persuade them to leave.
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