Occupy Central

Police launch internal review of how they handled Occupy Central protests

Long-serving officer heads internal review of how police handled Occupy movement amid fears of repeat demonstrations on anniversary

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 March, 2015, 3:23am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 March, 2015, 3:23am

A major internal review is under way into how Hong Kong police handled last year's Occupy Central protests which could re-shape the way the city's 28,000-strong force deals with such protests in future.

The probe is being headed by long-serving officer Duncan McCosh whose appointment could reopen the bitter debate over the controversial role the force played during the three months of turmoil given he was closely involved in the planning, execution and eventual clearance of demonstrators.

The review - which will be carried out by a team of seven officers under McCosh's command and is expected to come up with a series of recommendations by the end of April - comes amid top-level concerns that the city could be gripped by repeat protests to mark the first anniversary of the Occupy movement.

Earlier this week Legislative Council president and veteran pro-Beijing politician Jasper Tsang Yok-shing told Japanese media that he expected "big protests'' to mark the anniversary and suggested now was the time for the government and students to engage in some form of dialogue to defuse the situation.

It also comes amid increasingly radical protests against the influx of so-called parallel traders from the mainland, including a plan to hijack today's open day at Government House.

McCosh, who was previously deputy regional commander for Kowloon West, declined a Sunday Morning Post request for an interview about his role.

But a police spokesman said the review "involves the collation and reflection of experiences and opinions drawn from force members directly involved at all stages of the operation together with conclusions and recommendations that arise".

As for the creation of a special high-ranking post to head up the probe, the spokesman said: "The post was created to strengthen police's command responsibilities for operations which required significant mobilisation and deployment of force resources over a sustained period of time, and the related post-operational matters, such as external inquiries and reviews.''

One officer with more than 25 years' service in the force said: "This looks like a means of keeping a permanent anti-protest/riot capability at both management and rank-and-file level.''

However, another officer, who declined to be identified, said: "What some in the force find difficult to understand is why we have someone conducting this review who was specifically tasked before Occupy Central with the tactics and planning for it; and was then involved in policing the actual event itself.''

The police spokesman declined to answer questions on McCosh's suitability for the job, saying: "We would not comment on the promotion of individual civil servants.''

Last month the Post revealed that the police force was to receive its biggest single injection of manpower in years with the addition of 500 new officer posts - in a move primarily aimed at strengthening the specialist unit that handles public order events.

The move was given the green light by the Security Bureau - and would see 500 new positions added to the force's current "establishment" of 28,726, most of which would be used to boost the Police Tactical Unit, which at present has 2,000 officers.