Police not getting nastier, says deputy chief

Alfred Chau says police use only minimum force in dealing with protests. Photo: RTHK

Alfred Chau says police use only minimum force in dealing with protests. Photo: RTHK

A retiring senior police officer has rebuffed criticism that officers have become increasingly violent when handling protesters.

But Deputy Police Commissioner in Management Alfred Chau says the use of force to handle radical demonstrators may be justified – as society becomes more politicised.

His comments come just days after several pro-democracy demonstrators accused officers of beating them up after escorting them from the July 1st march. Chau wouldn’t comment on the case, noting formal complaints had been filed. 

But he said as society becomes more politicised, some people may mistakenly think officers are trying to stop them from expressing their views. However, he added, the police are duty-bound to maintain order and protect members of the public.

Chau, who now goes on pre-retirement leave, reiterated that the police force is politically neutral, and only use the minimum level of force required to handle protests. He said, however, that it’s inevitable that officers may have to step up the level of force if they face violent demonstrators – both to protect themselves and other people.

He added that the use of “non-lethal weapons” such as pepper spray and batons in dealing with demonstrators would actually lower the chance of casualties.

He also revealed that the police are planning to set up a new “major incident bureau” to handle large-scale events such as terrorist attacks, protests and natural disasters. It will consist of about 30 members, to be led by a senior superintendent. Legco has already approved funding, and the bureau could be established in the next month or two.