Editorial : Police excesses should be condemned

【明報專訊】RADICAL PROTESTERS and police have been escalating their use of force recently, heightening the risk of a deadly outcome. Still the police force should abide by laws and regulations during law enforcement to demonstrate their professionalism. Some of the actions taken by the police on Sunday were clearly over the top. These actions should be condemned.

As claimed by the police, radical protesters threw gasoline bombs at Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station, hitting a police officer on guard. He is said to have sustained second‑degree burns on the leg. During the stand‑off and clashes between both sides, a woman protester was shot in the eye, and might have lost her sight. At Tai Koo station, riot police gave chase to a group of allegedly radical protesters, shooting pepper balls in rapid succession at a distance of about two metres from the protesters. At Kwai Fong station, there were people who propelled steel beads and lit "smoke cakes", while police fired tear gas at protesters on the other side of the gate.

MTR stations are crowded places. The police's use of force within MTR areas is likely to harm innocent passers‑by. Thus, all actions must be taken with caution. The police say that some radical protesters deem MTR stations safe havens, believing that police will not enter MTR stations to make arrests. However, even the MTR has expressed great regret at the police's forceful action, saying that that could in all probability have endangered passengers and employees.

According to safety guidelines provided by the supplier of tear gas canisters, they can only be used outdoors or in places with good ventilation. In their own defence the police say that Kwai Fong station has a "half‑open" design, and it is not located underground. As there were a handful of protesters attacking police with catapults and steel beads and setting smoke cakes alight, a tear gas canister was fired to stop such dangerous behaviour. Does Kwai Fong station truly have a "good ventilation" design, making it suitable for the use of tear gas? The supplier of the tear gas in question, as well as experts, has to provide more information for our judgement. However, the action taken by the police at Tai Koo station was obviously too dangerous, as it could have jeopardised the safety of citizens and people living nearby. No matter whether it was an error of judgement on the scene or an honest mistake, such action should be criticised and condemned.

Another controversial aspect of the police's law enforcement actions on Sunday was the use of undercover police officers to arrest 15 protesters at Causeway Bay. The police stress that the undercover operation was not targeted at ordinary protesters, but "core violent elements" who were armed with lethal weapons and who had taken the lead in creating chaos repeatedly. They also say that those officers disguised as protesters did not instigate any conflicts or act illegally. However, the police officers in question did not produce their police warrant cards when making the arrests. Nor did they make known their identities when questioned by journalists on the scene. This, apparently, is in contradiction to requirements laid down in the Police General Orders and common law. It is necessary for the police force to give a clear response to queries from the public. As for the injury suffered by the woman protester at Tsim Sha Tsui, there were theories that it was caused by hard objects such as steel beads. However, as can be seen in media footage and pictures, there was an object, allegedly a bean bag round, lodged in the goggles of the protester. The police should take the initiative to investigate the matter seriously and contact the family of the victim. It is also hoped that the victim herself can provide more information so that all sides can understand the truth.

明報社評2019.08.13:警察行動須合規守法 社會切割暴力勿含糊




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excesses : extreme behaviour that is unacceptable, illegal or immoral

element : a group of people who form a part of a larger group or society

lodge : to become fixed or stuck somewhere; to make sth become fixed or stuck somewhere

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