Security chief grilled in Legco over police handling of protests

June 20, 2019 15:51
Secretary for Security John Lee answers questions from lawmakers at a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday. Photo: HKEJ

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu apologized to the people of Hong Kong in a Legislative Council meeting for the anxiety and conflicts caused by the extradition bill, following a similar move by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Pro-democracy lawmakers Au Nok Hin from the Council Front and Lam Cheuk-ting from the Democratic Party raised an urgent question respectively on the police’s use of force and their handling of demonstrators and media representatives during the protests outside the Legco complex in Admiralty on June 12, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

More than 40 lawmakers, mostly pan-democrats, took turns in questioning Lee, with some assailing the police for using "excessive force" and demanding that Lee step down. The meeting lasted five hours, with two breaks.

Lee offered an apology at least five times, but not for the way the police handled the June 12 protests.

“I am part of the team that took on the legislative exercise. Of course, I have to take responsibility, like the chief executive, in relation to the anxiety and conflict caused. I have to apologize,” RTHK quoted Lee as saying.

Lee reiterated what Lam acknowledged at a press conference on Tuesday – that there were “deficiencies” in the work of the government concerning the legislative exercise.

Regarding the call for him to resign, Lee said there are still several policies he wants to work on to assist the chief executive in the next three years, the broadcaster reported.

The security chief told the legislators that officers, who had no choice but to take action on protesters because warnings were ignored, only used the minimum level of force including firing tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at them.

He stressed that the weapons used conformed with standards set in other countries, adding that the shots were all aimed at the torsos of the demonstrators to achieve a deterring effect.

Lee also said police at all times respect the freedom of the press and the rights of media representatives, and always do their best to cooperate with media in their coverage of news events and maintain effective communication with the press.

During the meeting, legislators also asked how citizens could identify and file complaints against officers of the force's special tactical squad during the protests when they did not display their police warrant cards and identification numbers.

Lee said members of the special tactical squad deployed to the protest scene did not display their identification numbers because the design of their uniforms did not allow for the numbers to be displayed.

He promised that the police force will review and follow up on the issue, adding that he believes complaints against the officers will be handled fairly and impartially by the Complaints Against Police Office.

Since June 12, police have arrested 32 people, of which eight have been released unconditionally, Lee said, adding that at least 22 police officers sustained injuries during the clashes.

Meanwhile, Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin each filed a private member’s bill seeking to resolve the issues regarding the transfer of a Hong Kong man who is accused of killing his girlfriend in Taiwan last year and fleeing back to the city.

Lee told media he has received both proposals and the consultation process has been completed. The administration will conduct an internal discussion to decide whether to accept them, he added.

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