Police must respond to Hong Kong roadblock worries
Motorists told to use own vehicles as ‘human barriers’ to stop speeding car have suffered losses and strain as a result and the public is right to be concerned
The public was shocked after police in a car chase in February again used private vehicles as roadblocks to intercept a reckless driver. Two months have passed but the public has yet to be convinced that the use of private vehicles was justified.
The incident also took a new twist recently, with those used as “human barriers” warned by police that they might be prosecuted. The whole saga is nothing but absurd.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung has sought to play down the controversy, saying the issuance of “notice of intended prosecution” is standard procedure for drivers involved in traffic accidents.
That the police chief used bureaucratic jargon to defend a flawed operation is to be regretted, and it is a classic example of bureaucracy overriding common sense. On Wednesday, officers reportedly apologised to the motorists involved in the operation during a meeting.
The attitude of Lo is different from that of his predecessor Tang King-shing, who rightly apologised for a similar blunder nine years ago in which private vehicles were used to block an illegal road race in Kwun Tong. It was believed that police had changed their guidelines to avoid using private vehicles as roadblocks.
The car being pursued by police in the latest incident eventually crashed, killing both driver and passenger. The motorists asked by police to help stop the vehicle were also injured. One of them later told the media that officers did not explain clearly when ordering him to slow down to help block the speeding car. As a result, his new vehicle was badly damaged and his insurance premium had tripled.
They were good citizens cooperating with the police, but they suffered physical injuries and financial loss as a result. Furthermore, officers would also not clarify whether the operation had breached any guidelines.
The public is understandably concerned about its own safety if a similar operation is mounted again. Although it is a civic duty to cooperate with the police, citizens must not be put into a situation that endangers their safety. At stake is public confidence. The police must respond to the public outcry in an accountable manner.