Pressure is mounting on Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung to explain what he meant by a 'core security zone' at a special meeting tomorrow of the Legislative Council's security panel.
The police union, the Journalists Association, and legal scholars have demanded that Tsang give details of the much criticised security arrangement for Vice-Premier Li Keqiang 's visit this month.
Benjamin Tsang Chiu-fo, chairman of the Police Inspectors Association, while acknowledging that some officers might have overreacted to the commissioner's remark, said the designation of a 'core security zone' could indicate a worrying trend.
'I was shocked when I first heard about a core security zone in Chinese. I haven't heard about this before,' he said.
He explained that police had a set of English action commands for every operation and there was an internal arrangement that could be understood as a core security zone.
'There are three types of zones - red, yellow and green - depending on different operations. Red has the tightest security,' Tsang said.
'I would not be worried if it [core security area set-up] has become the norm. I cannot exclude the possibility that our colleagues have overreacted,' he said.
'The police commissioner should give a detailed explanation to ease public worries.'
During Li's three-day visit, a man wearing a June 4 protest T-shirt at Laguna City was taken away by officers wearing black clothes - who he said refused to reveal their identities - as the vice-premier was visiting the Lam Tin housing estate.
Later, three protesting students were locked up in the University of Hong Kong's K.K. Leung Building when they tried to cross a bridge to Loke Yew Hall, where Li was attending HKU's centenary celebration. Andy Tsang said the man and the students had stepped into the 'core security area'.
But a map sent by HKU registrar Henry Wai Wing-kun to students on August 17 regarding the security arrangement showed neither the building nor the bridge as being restricted areas.
The dean of HKU's law faculty called the term 'innovative' and said the authorities must clarify its legal basis. Johannes Chan Man-mun said Section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance might provide an answer, but the law stating that the police 'may take lawful measures' was too vague.
'As there is not any concrete law talking about a core security zone, we can only get back to the Police Force Ordinance, which states the police's responsibilities. But having responsibilities does not mean you can have the power to do anything.'
His fellow HKU legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting said it was not persuasive that the security restrictions were proportional to the actual needs.
Decrying policing that 'stifled media freedom', the Journalists Association will complain to the police commissioner on Thursday.
'Andy Tsang must explain ... if there are any solid guidelines and established rules in drawing core security zones. The arrangement should not be changed at any time according to the leaders' demand,' said chairwoman Mak Yin-ting.
'The public's perception of police professionalism will deteriorate if he cannot give such details.'