Officers express shock at violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 1995, 12:00am

WOMEN and children were used by Vietnamese leaders as human shields during the worst violence they had encountered, officers claimed.

Women were seen throwing stones and taking part in the riot, officers said, but many believed the male leaders in the camps used them for deterrent and propaganda purposes.

'They use women and children in the firing line as part of their tactics,' said Police Tactical Unit (PTU) Senior Inspector Jason Feehily.

'They were extremely aggressive and well prepared. They threw spears, axes and swords at us.

Mr Feehily, 27, had his left foot broken by a piece of concrete during the resistance on Saturday morning.

He said it was the most violent of the four operations he had experienced, but like most officers, claimed it was part of the job.

'For us we had a mission to complete and we did what we had to do.' Refugee Concern criticised the operation commanders for heavy use of tear-gas when women and children were involved.

But those involved defended their actions.

'We can take criticism because our tactics were appropriate for the threat we faced,' Mr Feehily said.

Homemade weapons used by the inmates included two-metre spears made from poles and sharpened metal, machetes fashioned from plate metal, and knives.

Police and Correctional Services Department officers yesterday displayed the weapons and their riot shields during a visit by Governor Chris Patten to the Correctional Services headquarters in Wan Chai.

'It was the most violence I have encountered during 18 years in the force,' said Chief Inspector Ian McPherson, head of PTU Team Two.

'I have never, ever come across this sort of violence before. Even from our intelligence reports we did not expect this sort of resistance. We knew there would be opposition, but we were taken aback by this.' Police constable Lam Kai-ming was struck in the head with a makeshift spear thrown down from a roof. The spear pierced his helmet and lodged two centimetres above his left eye.

Senior Inspector Lo Kam-tim of the PTU was struck in the right foot by a spear while guarding the gate between Sections One and Two.

'About 10 inmates carrying spears and other weapons came at us as we were attempting to secure the gate,' he said.

'As I stood there with my shield up, something suddenly hit my foot. I looked down and saw it was bleeding heavily.' Kwong Wing-shan was one of two female officers injured out of the 140 women officers involved.

The constable needed seven stitches on her lower lip after being struck by a rock.

Barely able to speak, she said the incident had not made her question her job.

Senior Inspector Wu Siu-fau of the PTU said he was burned on the neck and chest by what he claimed was a toilet cleaning agent.

Although he had not see it thrown, he was sure he had not been burned by tear-gas as many of his colleagues had been.