Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu admitted that plainclothesmen, along with uniformed police officers, are deployed to major events where large crowds are gathered, but their purpose is simply to ensure public safety and combat crime, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The officers are not there to gather personal information, Lee told lawmakers during a question and answer session at the Legislative Council.
Media reported earlier that some secondary students who joined the annual candlelight vigil at Victoria Park on the night of June 4 this year to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown were approached by a woman trying to collect their personal information, such as where they are studying.
Asked by lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun to shed light on the incident, Lee admitted that the woman in question was a police officer in civilian clothes dispatched to the gathering, but stressed that police never record or ask for personal particulars of individuals at such events.
The security chief did not provide further details about the woman, or what exactly was her assignment at the scene, on the ground that police operational deployments were involved. He also declined to comment on media reports about the incident.
Lee said police officers deployed at major or large events are mainly responsible for counting the total number of participants for the purposes of security risk assessment and crowd management.
Plainclothes officers are also present to watch out for potential crimes, such as pickpocketing and possession of deadly weapons, he said.
Police officers are not deployed to count the number of participating students or people from specific groups, Lee said.
He urged people who suspect they have been victims of illegal personal data collection to file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data or seek police help to follow up on the incident.
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