Police defend surge in protester arrests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2012, 12:00am


The number of protesters arrested last year was nearly eight times higher than in 2010, police confirmed.

Arrests of protesters rose from 57 in 2010 to 440. The number of demonstrations rose to 6,878, up by 1,222. The force's chief defended its tactics for handling demonstrations.

Of the 440, only 46 were charged with an offence, whereas 15 - more than a quarter - of those held the previous year faced charges.

The figures were similar to those compiled by the Civil Human Rights Front in a report issued last week.

Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the rise in arrests was due to mass arrests at three demonstrations, after roads were occupied. Protesters had been warned repeatedly to leave before officers moved in to make arrests, he said.

Tsang rejected suggestions that the police had abused their powers in order to suppress demonstrations.

'We understand that different people could hold different views on the same incident as they have different stances and values. Yet being the law enforcement agency in Hong Kong, we have the responsibility to uphold the law,' he said.

He said it was up to the Department of Justice to decide who to charge. The department had sent letters to 238 protesters, which pointed out that their behaviour was illegal but they were not being charged.

A March 6 protest over the government's annual budget resulted in clashes that led to 113 arrests.

After the June 4 vigil, more than 200 protesters marched to North Point police station to protest against those arrests; 53 were held.

On July 2, 231 people were arrested as they occupied roads for a sit-in after the annual July 1 rally.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan demanded the police review whether it had been necessary to make so many arrests.