Police will not hesitate to apply necessary force, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, in dealing with violent protests, despite public criticism over such methods, Apple Daily reports, citing sources in the police force.
This is part of the police force’s decision to temporarily return to the old three-tier anti-riot system of responding to protests similar to the Feb. 9 clashes in Mong Kok.
Police had earlier set up Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) under each of the police regions.
These QRFs are made up of police officers from the Police Tactical Unit, Criminal Investigation Department, Force Search Unit, Media Liaison Cadres and Public Engagement Office.
In the event of large-scale protests, the QRFs from the respective region are deployed so as not to affect the security work of other police regions.
In the aftermath of the Mong Kok violence, however, police have realized that the regional QRFs were incapable of getting the situation under control in a timely manner.
Thus, police have decided to return to the original three-tier anti-riot system before any recommendations from an internal review committee are made.
Under the three-tier structure, the Police Tactical Units will serve as the first team to be deployed, followed by officers from the Emergency Units from various police regions as the second team, and officers from various regions who have received anti-riot training as the third.
Police also decided they would use tear gas and even rubber bullets against protesters if the situation so requires, casting aside fears of criticisms from the public.
An internal review committee is looking into police response to the Mong Kok protests as well as other related issues, such as frontline officers’ complaints that some of the anti-riot equipment are too clumsy and take a long time to put on.
Police follow detailed guidelines on the use of force, although the sources refused to disclose details.
Commenting on a tender notice posted by the police last week for the purchase of 6,500 anti-riot helmets, a police spokesperson said it is one of the regular equipment purchasing exercises of the force.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association called on all protesters not to vent their anger on frontline reporters and cameramen.
Spokeswoman Shum Yee-lan also urged the mass media not to adopt self-censorship in the coverage of protests, which will damage its image of impartiality and its role as the fourth branch of government.
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association chairman Chung Lam-chi said guidelines for press photographers at scenes of protest are being compiled to help members to better protect themselves.
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