Mong Kok riot

Angry Hong Kong police criticise ‘feeble’ senior management over Mong Kok riot arrangements

Frontline officers claim morale is at record low after more than 90 from their ranks were wounded

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 February, 2016, 12:00pm

Frontline police officers struck by bricks, glass bottles and wooden boards during Monday’s riot in Mong Kok told the Post they were deeply disappointed with their senior management as they slammed arrangements that left more than 90 officers wounded.

The sentiments were shared as their director of personnel and training Sonny Au Chi-kwong and assistant police commissioner Tang Bing-keung met with the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association and Junior Police Officers’ Association to discuss morale in the force on Thursday morning.

A source close to the matter said an emergency meeting was called as the senior management felt there was an immediate need to make amends following media coverage in the past two days that made them realise how angry frontline officers were.

READ MORE: Hong Kong courtroom packed as 37 face rioting charges and are banned from entering parts of Mong Kok

That sentiment was also said to be aggravated after Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung spoke to the press on Tuesday, the source added.

Junior police union chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong told reporters after the meeting that he conveyed the frontline officers’ concerns over Monday night’s operation, the available gear and present morale to the management. But he stopped short of revealing details of their demands and recommendations, citing an ongoing operation.

“We have sufficient gear,” Chan said as he sidestepped questions on whether the deployment of gear was problematic when helmet-less officers worked on the frontline.

Instead, he appealed to lawmakers to back the use of “new model weapons and gears”, including water cannons, to maintain the city’s public order.

Officers who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post they were deeply disappointed with their senior management and described their morale as at a record low.

“When the commissioner told the press that he would look into the matter to see if the fellow had broken any rules by firing live rounds, it broke our hearts,” a frontline officer told the Post.

“What does he need to investigate? Lo should have stood up for the frontline officers who were beaten up and attacked by the mob, like [former commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung] did in the past.”

The officer also questioned whether Lo could safeguard the pride and dignity of the force when he appeared “soft” and “feeble” to the public.

Lo had saluted the officers during the press briefing for their perseverance, courage and devotion in the operation, but that did not seem to ease the fury of some colleagues.

In another interview, an officer slammed the force for poor arrangements and inadequate gear.

“Traffic officers had the least gear and they were at the very front to handle the armed rioters,” he said. “What a joke!”

“That night was ten times worse than any of the scenes during the Occupy movement. Why couldn’t we use tear gas?”

The officer further questioned if a political agenda was behind the decision not to use tear gas. He suggested the use of rubber bullets would be justified in the face of such a violent, large-scale riot.

“The top management just can’t feel the pain we suffered and the danger we faced. After all, they were sitting in their offices.”

Clashes erupted on the first night of Lunar New Year when a group of activists from Hong Kong Indigenous confronted hygiene officers and police to ‘protect’ illegal street hawkers in Mong Kok.

What ensued was a bloody overnight confrontation between protesters and police that lasted over 10 hours, with intermittent fires from the burning of rubbish bins.

Health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said public hospitals received some 130 wounded people, which included five journalists and more than 90 police officers.