Police may need ‘human shields’ to stop terrorist attack in Hong Kong, says security chief as he rejects calls to abandon practice
Following controversy after three drivers used as human shields were told they could face prosecution, Secretary for Security John Lee told city’s legislature police could not simply end such tactics because every situation was different
Hong Kong’s security chief has rejected calls to stop police using civilian drivers as “human shields” during high-speed pursuits because of the possibility of a terrorist attack.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, responding in the city’s Legislative Council on Friday to Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, said police could not simply order an end to such tactics because every situation was different and required careful judgment to minimise impact.
“There really are some special situations, such as overseas cases of terrorists driving vehicles into crowds,” Lee said.
“If terrorists continue to drive at high speed, causing more deaths and injuries, police must stop them. But I agree the method should not impose further danger to other road users. This is exactly what the reviewing committee is hoping to achieve.”
To wanted the practice of using civilian vehicles as obstructions stopped until it had been reviewed after three drivers who acted as human shields were told they could face prosecution.
The trio were involved in a chase in February, where traffic police officers tried to stop a seven-seater car that was changing lanes recklessly and cutting in front of other vehicles at speed. The car flipped over on Fanling Highway after hitting the three civilian cars and a road divider.
The driver of the seven-seater and his male passenger, aged 37 and 26, died. Two men and a woman in two of the three civilian cars were injured. An officer in pursuit on a motorcycle was also hurt.
After the meeting, To accused Lee of “disregarding citizens’ safety” and “making outlandish comments”. He said if terrorists drove a vehicle into a crowd, police should take safety as priority and evacuate the area.
“Citizens are already sick of police using civilian cars as human shields,” To said. “Is the security chief now asking police to use civilian cars to obstruct terrorists potentially armed with heavy weapons?”
During the meeting, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung conceded the force did not consider the three motorists’ feelings before issuing notices to tell them about potential prosecution, even though officers were following standard procedure in issuing the notices.
Lo said the police had already expressed regret to the trio during an earlier meeting.