Hong Kong protests: 7 police responses to the events of August 11

Police use tear gas, beanbags and rubber bullets while protesters threw Molotov cocktails; force denies any wrongdoing

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Assistant police operations commissioner Mak Chin-ho (left) said pepper ball launchers were not classified as firearms, a classification disputed by NGOs.

At the daily police press briefing on Monday, police representatives were bombarded with questions from reporters regarding police actions taken on Sunday night. Prepared police remarks were abandoned as media demanded answers in a question-and-answer session that was three hours long. 

Here is how the police responded to seven of the major points raised by journalists.

Undercover officers

In Causeway Bay, black-clad men wearing masks and helmets were seen helping officers in uniform arrest protesters. Police have confirmed undercover operations targeting “violent rioters who use deadly force such as petrol bombs” are underway. They have refused to divulge how long such actions have been underway, and did not explained why the officers refused to show their badges while exercising their duties.

South China Morning Post was told that agents from the force’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau had been deployed to mingle with protesters to collect information since June. Tang insisted that police officers would undertake such operations according to the law and would not lead charges or throw petrol bombs. 

Eye injury 

A young woman protester was hit in the eye, reportedly by a beanbag round. Video footage circulated online showed a beanbag lodged in her goggles, and reporters at the press conference claimed they were there when it happened, but police have said they would need more time to review their operations to make sure the wound was from a police weapon. 

“I do not know whether it was a beanbag round, or a metal ball [fired by protesters],” said Mak.

Hong Kong protests: What happened on August 11 in Tsim Sha Tsui, Sham Shui Po, Wan Chai and Kwai Chung

Tear gas in the MTR

Police fired tear gas at protesters in an enclosed railway station for the first time at the ground-level concourse of the Kwai Fong MTR station. Police said they would only use tear gas in semi-enclosed spaces if given no choice, emphasising they used one tear gas canister in the station in response to protesters using smoke bombs and slingshots. 

Printed on the canisters are manufacturer instructions that they should not be used indoors. Police also admitted to using expired tear gas, but have said it would not cause additional negative health effects, as the date refers to the “best before” date for the firing mechanism.  

Alleged planting of evidence

Officers in Causeway Bay were caught on camera allegedly inserting a large stick into the backpack of a protester while he was restrained, with complaints of framing and planting evidence by the arrested protester. 

The police replied that they would need more time to gather information about the specific event, and that they too are using media footage. But according to their own records, there was no planting of evidence. However, they also said searches are generally conducted in full view of the suspect. 

Li also said it was a huge accusation to suggest officers had planted weapons, which would amount to perverting the course of justice, adding the force would look into the allegation.

Hong Kong protests: Police demonstrate water cannons after another weekend of tear gas

Use of pepper balls at close range

The police have promised to conduct a review on actions that “did not conform to the public’s expectations”, but did not say how long will the review take. They have also said the pepper ball guns used to shoot people at close range inside Tai Koo MTR station were not firearms and can be used in close quarters, but none of the officers revealed what guidelines govern the use of the weapon. 

“Laser guns”

The police force has continued to refer to the devices carried by Keith Fong Chung-yin, Baptist University Student Union chairman as “laser guns”, they have also denied they were following him on purpose, describing video collected by local media as “open to interpretation”. 

Yuen Long attack on July 21

The force continues to deny there is any police-triad collusion, and have updated the number of arrests to 27 persons. When asked why they have not been charged while there were over 40 people taken to court on riot charges, they denied there is selective law enforcement and explained it by saying the protesters were arrested on scene, making charges easier. 

Tang explained the commander on scene, Yau Nai-keung used his professional judgement in not arresting the white shirted men holding sticks on scene that night. Yau, the Assistant District Commander of Crime in Yuen Long is still an active officer and has been not suspended for the duration of the investigation.