Police defend officer who fired warning shot into air

August 27, 2019 16:24
On Monday, police returned to Sha Tsui Road in Tsuen Wan, where a policeman had fired a warning shot the previous night, and tried to locate the bullet. Photo: RTHK

The police defended a colleague who fired a warning shot during clashes with anti-government protesters in Tsuen Wan on Sunday, insisting that the officer had taken necessary and reasonable action amid a grave situation.

At a media briefing on Monday, the police said the officer in question had demonstrated bravery and self-restraint and that he fired a shot into the air only because of the violent and aggressive protesters.

According to John Tse Chun-chung, chief superintendent of the police's public relations unit, the officer, along with several other associates, was on the way to Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan to deal with a criminal damage case there, when their vehicle was stopped and vandalized by a group of protesters.

After the officers got off the vehicle, they were attacked by the demonstrators who held metal rods and bamboo sticks, leading to a dangerous situation.

Tse said the officers faced the risk of serious injury as they were not in anti-riot gear.

As the violent protesters ignored warnings, an officer decided to fire a shot into the air, Tse said, labeling the action as appropriate use of force given the circumstances.

Online video footage showed a man knelt down right after the shot and asked the officers pulling out their guns not to fire any more shots, but he was kicked out of the way by one of the officers.

Defending the action, Tse pointed out that the man had suddenly appeared at a dangerous location on the street and had parked himself between the police and the protesters.

Deeming the man as a threat, an officer used his leg to “push the man away”, Tse said. 

Calling such a response natural, Tse said the officer was not kicking with malice, and that there was no such thing as emotions going out of control.

On Monday, police returned to Sha Tsui Road, where the shot was fired, and tried to locate the bullet.

Asked why police did not fire a warning shot as well during the Yuen Long attacks on July 21, when suspected gangsters attacked anti-government protesters and others, Tse only said that people should not compare two different incidents.

As for the deployment of water cannon vehicles the first time on Sunday, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) Terence Mak Chin-ho indicated that approval for use of those vehicles had only come recently.

Mak said water cannon will be used again in the future if police see a large-scale commotion that they think may seriously put public safety, properties and social order at risk.

According to police, a total of 86 people were arrested over the weekend, with the youngest one being only 12 years old, on suspicion of various offences, including illegal assembly, assaulting police officers and possessing offensive weapon.

Also, the law enforcement personnel fired 215 canisters of tear gas, 74 rubber bullets, 44 sponge grenades and four bean bag rounds in total during the clashes on Saturday and Sunday.

Twenty-one police officers sustained injuries during the clashes, the police said, adding that one officer is still in hospital.

In an inter-departmental press conference on Monday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung condemned protesters for continuingly escalating their violence, and reiterated the government’s full support for the police in the discharge of their duties.

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