PLA will not be used to deal with public disorder, says Hong Kong security minister

Security minister backs police to handle future protests, removing need for Beijing intervention

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 9:24am

There is no possibility that Hong Kong police will call in the People's Liberation Army to deal with public disorder, the security minister says.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok was responding to a question in the Legislative Council on the circumstances in which the government would seek Beijing's intervention.

Some have speculated that the PLA could step in if Beijing felt police were not coping with the Occupy Central movement's non-violent civil disobedience campaign for democracy.

"Our disciplined forces, especially the police force, are well trained and seasoned in handling large-scale events, including protests and marches," Lai told Legco's security panel.

"I have absolute confidence in the Hong Kong police force, that it has the ability to handle any internal security problem.

"Although there is a clause in the Basic Law [that provides for requests for PLA intervention], I see no possibility of our police failing to handle these situations well, according to law."

Asked whether a protest for "genuine democracy" would be considered "a danger to national unity" - under which Beijing has the power to declare a "state of emergency" and send troops to Hong Kong - Lai did not give a clear answer.

Earlier this month, Hao Tiechuan , publicity director at Beijing's liaison office, highlighted the central government's right under Article 18 of the Basic Law to impose a "state of emergency" if it deemed the city's government had lost control and national unity or security was endangered.

Hao did not clarify whether he was speaking in response to the Occupy Central plans.

Lai pointed out that most protests and marches in the past had been peaceful and complied with the Public Order Ordinance.

But a small group of people were breaking the law while taking part in protests, he said, a trend he described as worrying.

In another Legco panel meeting, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the government would try to put forward a concrete political reform proposal by the end of this year.