• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 1:59pm
NewsHong Kong

Pepper-sprayed protesters say police used 'unreasonable' force

Marchers accuse police of attacking them, but security chief insists officers were reacting to a 'dangerous situation' during protest

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 10:02am


  • Yes: 51%
  • No: 49%
6 May 2014
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 347

Opponents of "white elephant" infrastructure projects yesterday accused police of attacking them and misusing pepper spray during their protest on Sunday.

Organisers alleged that the hood of one protester's raincoat was pulled open by one officer while another sprayed him. Radical lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung said officers held both his hands while he was sprayed in the face four times.

"How is such behaviour reasonable?" asked Chan Man-wai, a member of youth social movement Age of Resistance, one of the march organisers.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the spray was only used when a dangerous situation developed on a footbridge at Harcourt Road in Admiralty. However, protesters questioned whether police had followed guidelines on the use of pepper spray, which they say stipulate officers must be under "imminent threat" and be at least 61cm away from their target.

Lai said yesterday that the police handling of the situation was based on the judgment of officers at the scene.

"The situation was very dangerous at the time," he said. "Some of [the protesters] ran out onto the road, occupying the road. Some police officers were splashed with unidentified liquid, and I heard one policeman was hit by a drumstick."

About 170 people joined the march from Chater Gardens in Central to government headquarters in Admiralty, urging the government to scrap a series of expensive projects the demonstrators said served no purpose. They included the troubled high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, the Liantang border crossing and plans for new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

Problems began when it was found that one of the props the protesters were using - a replica hut, representing the village homes that will be lost in the New Territories developments - would not fit on the footbridge.

The protesters wanted to continue along Gloucester Road but police refused to allow them, as march organisers had agreed to use the footbridge when the protest was approved. After two hours of scuffles, eight protesters were allowed to carry the prop along Gloucester Road.

Chan said the issue of the large prop had been raised when the organisers applied to stage the protest, but police had said the group should have no problem using the footbridge.

Leung questioned why the Confederation of Trade Unions had been allowed to use Gloucester Road for its Labour Day protest on Thursday while they were not.

He planned to make a complaint against the police, but also expected to be arrested, meaning his complaint will not be handled until after court proceedings.

The government is expected to table a preliminary request for funding for the New Territories new towns to the Legislative Council's Finance Committee on May 16. Leung said he would file 700 amendments in a filibuster attempt.

The HK$120 billion scheme will create 60,000 homes but will displace several villages.



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This article is now closed to comments

Demonstrators were wrong to deviate from their registered route. Plain and Simple. They had every opportunity beforehand to ask for changes for their mock hut. You have the right to demonstrate, but you don't have the right to break the law. Grow up, people.
I was watching yesterday's protest. The headline should read "Protesters attack Police." The Police showed great restraint and only resorted to using the pepper spray when violent elements in the crowd attacked them repeatedly. I trust the Police will arrest the ring leaders and bring them before the Courts.
"We have the right to stage protests."
Indeed? There is a little thing called rule of law, for the benefit of all citizens. You can protest within those confines, not outside of it.
"when the protesters made a detour from their previously agreed-upon route, insisting they had to march on Gloucester Road because of the huge size of the mock hut."
So if they'd have kept to the agreed route instead of spoiling for a fight - there would not have been a problem ? or am I being obtuse ? Looks like to me they got exactly what they were looking for . . . some eyewash.
Don't cry foul because you get booked for crossing the red light .
History has proven that demonstrators get into trouble with the police only when not following the routes agreed with the authorities beforehand (and on approving routes the police has to consider the general rights of 7 million people and not only the right of assembly) .
If you want to gain support from the majority of Hong Kong people, adhere to the rules and be smarter than the authorities.
Breaking the rules and laws doesn't win the Hong Kong people to support you and your noble causes.
Hong Kong's interpretation of democracy - Demonstration is above the law, they pushing through the police barricades is freedom of assembly, police push back is overuse of force. We are not ready.
Despite how noble the cause (and this is a good one) violence never works and just alienates the majority whose support you seek. Gandhi understood this and overturned the worlds greatest colonial power.
With homeless on the streets and failing medical and educational systems, the Govt still wastes billions on unwanted and unnecessary infrastructure projects. Unfortunately corruption and cronyism not compassion are at the core of this city.
"Rat" how very apt - s of course entirely missing the point . . . unsurprising with hands over eyes.
Actually a crucial question is missing here: what should be the threshold for police to use a weapon (what a pepper stray essentially is) against protesters? There is arguably a certain wrong-doing by the demonstration camp, but the rationale that violence was justified because they didn't stick to the original agreement is--honestly--quite frightening.
While the factual reasons are kept rather vague ("injured", "unidentified liquid"), what is eventually the role of the police during a demonstration when there is an unforeseen situation that creates a hostile atmosphere? Has there been really done enough to "de-escalate" the situation? And even now--after it happened--will it be evaluated if other non-violent reactions might have facilitated better outcomes?
I was not present during this demonstration, but if an attempted "removal of metal barriers" can already trigger the nervous fingers of police officers in this city, that's something we should be truly worried about. Applying similar measures, they would have likely eliminated protesters during May 1st demonstrations in European cities last week...
This brings up two important major related problems:
1. Under one-country-two-systems, Hong Kong must be clear on which system it follows. If businesses are to be run by private enterprises, then government should stay out of it completely. The current system of hybrid enterprises like the MTR simply would not work in the long run as operators would not take full responsibility nor penalized for mistakes and government supervisions are inept at best.
2. We must have a viable truly democratic political system soonest, as otherwise, people will always take issues to the street no matter the significance of the issues and the government will be spending most of its energy on putting out fires rather than governance. In the long run this is going to hurt Hong Kong's competitiveness. China would be smart to relax its views on this issue, as Hong Kong could serve as a model (such as to Taiwan) going forward. Singapore serves as a good example. It has multi-party democracy though it has been ruled by one party since independence. Singaporeans do not take to the street on every issue for they have been given choices. This is what most Hong Kong people are calling for and have been promised at that.


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