Frontline police officers in Hong Kong are said to have been given a fresh briefing about the tactics they can deploy to control crowds and ensure order during public assemblies and demonstrations.
Officers have been told that they can resort to verbal warnings, water jets, spray-based teargas and batons to bring things under control, Ming Pao Daily News reported.
Following the large-scale protests and assemblies during the Occupy protests last year, the police have been studying ways to manage crowds better.
Water spraying was an idea that was tossed around before the police purchased high-powered water cannons as its latest crowd control equipment. Authorities believe it can help minimize physical action on protesters and disperse crowds.
A police spokesperson refused to comment on the crowd control equipment but said that the force will ensure sufficient manpower to uphold public order and ensure the safety of protesters and other people.
On December 1 last year, police resorted to water spray to disperse protesters at the main Occupy site in Admiralty. Authorities are said to have deemed the method effective.
As for tear gas, the police are now said to have agreed to use spray-based teargas solution rather than the conventional teargas bombs that were deployed on September 28 last year, an action that has drawn harsh criticism.
In fact, the spray-based solution is several times more powerful than teargas bombs.
The police are also said to have briefed frontline officers not to hit protesters with batons in sensitive body areas. They should rather aim at the limbs and avoid hitting protesters on the head.
Civil Human Rights Front’s Au Nok-hin said it is worrying that the police are adding to the equipment that can be used against demonstrators. Au believes even water cannon could cause injuries.
Law Yuk-kai, director of rights organization Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said police must exercise restraint in dealing with protesters.
Spraying of water could cause chaos and stampede and increase the risk of casualties, he said.
– Contact us at [email protected]