Human Behavior

Police confession over pepper spray fracas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 2011, 12:00am

Police have admitted for the first time they did not fully warn anti-budget protesters before they were showered with pepper spray on March 6.

They also said the spray was aimed at the protesters, contradicting earlier remarks by the security chief.

A document submitted to the Legislative Council security panel said that during the protest 'seven officers sprayed bursts of OC foam at violent protesters. Six officers were able to give prior warning'.

The paper said the foam was 'targeted at violent individuals'.

During the protest, in which 113 people were arrested, an eight-year- old boy was injured by the pepper spray.

Security secretary Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong was accused of lying when he said in Legco on March 23 that police had aimed the spray in the air rather than at protesters.

Video clips showed officers aiming the spray directly at the crowd.

The Security Bureau said later, in a letter to Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, that what Lee meant was that the spray was aimed at 'a height higher than children'.

Lee did not attend the panel meeting yesterday despite requests from lawmakers that he give an explanation of his remarks.

Undersecretary for security Lai Tung-kwok, who attended the meeting, said police applied minimal force according to existing guidelines aiming at maintaining public order.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support) Peter Hunt told the meeting that five unlawful assembly warnings were given to a small group of protesters who were sitting down and blocking the junction of Queen's Road Central and Ice House Street but they refused to leave.

He said protesters kicked, head-butted and punched police officers who were trying to push the crowd back with a 'minimum of force'.

Hunt said police took action when they saw 'several protesters were standing on top of the barriers throwing their banners and causing danger to themselves and people around them'.

Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing was not satisfied with the police explanation and said an independent investigation should be conducted into the police action.

Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung also said 'someone' might have lied to the legislators on how police used the spray.