Police have warned that they will not back away from using force if protesters marking the handover get out of hand today. This is despite criticism of their handling of a student protest outside the Central Government Offices on Monday, where they were accused of using excessive force. 'I can assure [you] that we won't use any force if what they do is peaceful and in order,' Police director of operations Dick Lee Ming-kwai told lawmakers. 'But we can take action if they break the law,' he added. Police District Commander (Central) Michael Francis, who said he was standing about a metre from the scuffles on Monday, said officers stepped up their use of force after three to four protesters started to kick and punch them. He said 46 of the 85 officers at the scene were armed with pepper spray but only one had used it. Officials and lawmakers were yesterday shown TVB news footage of the scuffles in which officers were seen using pepper spray on fleeing protesters. At least one protester was seen being punched from behind. Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said lawmakers should not jump to a verdict based on a few seconds of TV footage. She said the protest led by the Federation of Students and overstayers did not follow the proper procedures of notifying the police. 'You can't say they are students and are above the law,' said Mrs Ip, adding that lawmakers should not use double standards and accuse the police of using excessive force illegally. She said a criminal investigation was under way, but stood by her preliminary conclusion that the use of force was appropriate. However, lawmakers were unconvinced and threatened to launch an independent inquiry into what they described as an international disgrace. Democrat leader Martin Lee Chu-ming said police were wrong to have punched the protester and chased others with pepper spray. Fellow Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan said: 'It would be a great international disgrace if the United Nations Human Rights Commission was shown the news tape.' Describing the punch as revenge, the Progressive Alliance's David Chu Yu-lin said the officer should be suspended.