Police cautioned the public against making accusations without proper investigation following reports that it tried to frame a protester with planted evidence and shot a woman in the eye with a bean-bag round during dispersal operations on Sunday.
This came after news footage showed two officers putting an object resembling a stick into a handcuffed man’s backpack after he was arrested during clashes in Causeway Bay on Sunday.
Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah of the Police Organised Crime and Triad Bureau told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday that the two arresting officers simply put the stick back in the protester’s bag after it fell to the ground.
Li said the officer’s approach was not perfect but acceptable, and admitted there is room for improvement in dealing with such a situation, the Hong Economic Journal reports.
Reporters, however, asked Li why the stick in question was not presented during Monday’s press conference when exhibits seized from the Causeway Bay operation were displayed.
Li said police need not present all evidence as he insisted that the two officers did see the protester hold and use the stick before arresting him.
When asked what offenses the protester and his companions had been arrested for, Li said police had gained advance intelligence suggesting that violent protesters would launch attacks and later found weapons inside their bags.
In the case of the woman who was seriously injured in the right eye during a clearance operation outside the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station on Sunday, footage of the incident emerged showing what looked like a pellet-filled bean bag lodged inside the woman’s goggles.
Asked about this on Tuesday, Li asserted that it is still not clear what caused the woman’s injuries.
A formal investigation has been initiated, and detectives have contacted the hospital where the woman is confined to ask her for a statement, he said, adding that videos of the incident will still have to be examined to find out what exactly had happened.
Li called on the patient to report the case to the police and provide a medical report, adding that she will not be arrested before she can give a statement.
Also in Tuesday’s press conference, Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch clarified that while officers were criticized for firing weapons such as tear gas from a height to disperse the crowd, such acts are not prohibited under the police guidelines.
Besides, officers always choose a safe and effective spot where they can take their shots.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) issued an open letter addressed to Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung on Tuesday, saying it is “greatly concerned about the deterioration in relations between the police and media” since protests triggered by the extradition bill began in early June.
Although the FCC appreciated the police’s efforts of beginning to hold press conference every day to improve transparency, it urged police to stop preventing journalists from covering protests through a list of 11 suggestions including refraining from shining lights directly at news photographers and camera operators, presenting their warrant cards on request if needed, and exercising much greater restraint in the use of tear gas.
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