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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

激進示威者和警方所用武力近期不斷升級,「搞出人命」風險愈來愈高。警隊執法也要合規守法,才能顯示專業,警方周日部分行動過了火位,應予譴責。

在尖沙嘴警署,警方指有激進示威者投擲汽油彈,擊中站崗警員導致腿部二級燒傷;對峙衝突期間,有女示威者眼部被擊中受傷,有可能失明;在太古城港鐵站,防暴警察追捕嫌疑激進示威者,在大約兩米短距離內連續發射胡椒彈;在葵芳港鐵站,有人射鋼珠和燃點煙霧餅,警方則向閘內示威者發射催淚彈。

港鐵站人多擠迫,警方在站內範圍使用武力,很容易「殺錯良民」,任何舉措都必須小心謹慎。警方表示,有激進分子視港鐵站如安全港、認為警察不會進入港鐵站拉人,然而就連港鐵方面亦對警方採取強硬行動表示非常遺憾,認為「極有可能影響站內乘客和港鐵職員安全」。

根據催淚彈供應商的安全指引,催淚彈只可於室外或通風良好地方使用。警方辯稱,葵芳站屬「半開放式」設計,並非位於地底,鑑於事發時站內有個別激進示威者用丫叉、鋼珠射向警員及燃燒煙霧餅,為了制止這些危險行為,於是發射了一枚催淚彈。葵芳站的設計,是否能夠算作「通風良好地方」、真的可以使用催淚彈,也許需要催淚彈供應商和專家提供更多資料,以便判斷,不過警方在太古站所採取的行動,明顯太過危險,有可能危及市民街坊安全,不管是否臨場判斷有誤又或所謂「無心之失」(honest mistake),都應批判譴責。

警方周日執法另一爭議點,是安排警員當臥底,在銅鑼灣拘捕15名示威者。警方強調卧底調查的對象並非普通示威者,而是一群持有致命武器、多次在示威中帶頭滋事的「核心暴力分子」,又說警員喬裝期間沒有挑起事端或作出非法行為,可是涉事臥底警員在拘捕行動期間沒有展示委任證,面對在場記者詢問,又拒絕表明身分,明顯與《警察通例》和普通法要求有悖,警方有必要就此清晰回應外間質疑。至於尖沙嘴女示威者眼部受傷一事,坊間有指是鋼珠一類硬物所傷,但從新聞片段及圖片所見,傷者眼罩插有疑似布袋彈,警方應想辦法主動嚴正調查,以及聯絡傷者家人,也期望事主提供更多資料,以便各方了解真相。

■Glossary

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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