Date
18 August 2017
Police stand behind a haze of tear gas. The sudden order to withdraw after a chaotic dispersal operation damaged police morale. Photo: AFP
Police stand behind a haze of tear gas. The sudden order to withdraw after a chaotic dispersal operation damaged police morale. Photo: AFP

Cops blame superiors for chaotic protest response

Hong Kong police are under fire from junior officers for last week’s chaotic operation in which tear gas and pepper spray were used on unarmed student protesters, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

The failure is being blamed on poor contingency planing and questionable resource allocation by their superiors.

Also, they failed to provide adequate communication and coordination during the operation on Sunday night and Monday morning last week, the report said.

The government pulled riot police from the streets hours later amid a public outcry that saw thousands of ordinary citizens take to the streets in support of the students.

Senior police planners failed to anticipate that the protest would spread beyond Central and Admiralty to other districts, exacerbating weaknesses in the chain of command, the report said.

Most frontline officers were from different divisions, making it difficult to coordinate plans while confused orders from their superiors made them disorganized.

Also, efforts to resupply frontline officers, including moving vast quantities of food and water, were patchy.     

A police spokesperson defended the operation, dubbed Solarpeak, saying it was carried out by a well-trained team in a professional manner.

Senior officers were caught off guard by the decision of Occupy Central to launch its own protest three days early to ride the momentum of the student demonstration, according to an unnamed police force.

That meant the police command structure was not prepared for a multi-pronged response, the report said.

Three command posts were deployed in the operation compared with two during the 2005 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting when riot police clashed with South Korean demonstrators in Wan Chai.

In the Sept. 28-29 operation, police fired 87 tear gas rounds. The officers were ordered to take off their riot gear after the last three canisters were unleashed and to withdraw shortly after.

The sudden retreat, reportedly ordered by senior government officials, damaged police morale, the report said.

Solarpeak was two years in the making but none of the tactics or skills taught in the training could be used, according to an unnamed participant.

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