By Nate Wilson
Since the start of the Hong Kong protests this year there has been much attention brought to the Hong Kong Police Force (HKP) and their actions.
These have mostly involved many scandals and alleged abuse of powers in the face of Hong Kong’s continuing political meltdown. This has led the Hong Kong police to gain a troublesome reputation with the people of Hong Kong and could be argued has led to more violence. rather than less.
Hong Kong’s police have faced many serious allegations and many serious cases of police misconduct over the past twelve years, some of these include; the rape of a female suspect while in Mong Kok Police Station in 2008, police brutality during the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the setup and framing of an innocent autistic suspect for murder in 2015.
It has been these cases that have been brought against the HKP that have created mass distrust within the public sphere.
Due to this public trust in the HKP has been greatly diminished, so when the anti-extradition protests came around this year many protesters had little to no hope in the local police force of being as “decent as possible” in conduct.
Looking at the allegations being held against the HKP during these recent protests, misuse of teargas, police brutality, torture and sexual abuse and lack of identification. All of which has led many to argue that the HKP’s history of violence is merely continuing in an ever-increasing fashion without a formal restraint from the local government.
The HKP have faced a wide range of allegations of unlawful abuse and teargas misuse. Throughout the recent protests that Hong Kong has faced during this year these have allegedly “pepper sprayed people who pose no threat to the police”, the use of beanbag rounds (non-lethal bullet fired from a shotgun shell) have ruptured protesters eyes, with officers reportedly firing the rounds art point blank range.
Amnesty International published a report in June of this year concluding that the police’s actions violate international law. Alongside this, HKP’s use of teargas has created a wealth of backlash due to similar allegations of the police using them at point black range on protesters as a means of crowd dispersal. Leading to a massive backlash against the police in recent months alongside other police complaints.
Allegations of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the HKP have stuck throughout the recent protesting. On August 20 this year Hong Kong legislator Lam Cheuk-ting showed a graphic video during a press conference recorded in North District Hospital (New Territories East) of which three police officers were recorded punching the genitals of a sixty-two-year-old man who was heavily restrained on a hospital bed. Footage of which has sparked backlash against the police and led to accusations of torture within Hong Kong and from many international responses.
On top of this the police have faced sexual abuse claims. The basis for these has been in the form of conducting gloveless strip searches and using pens to spread legs open.
These accusations have been denied by the police while 23 women have come forward and have stated that they have suffered sexual abuse from the HKP. All this of has only added to the ever-increasing distrust in the police by protesters and the wider distrust from the public.
In addition to this HKP have faced accusations of a lack of identification by removing identification numbers from police uniforms during the protesting.
The reasoning for which has come from the current Justice Secretary John Lee when he stated that there is “no room” for displaying the identification on the uniform on June 12. However, this claim was rebuked by legislator Lam Cheuk-ting when he provided footage of the police having uniform identification some three days earlier on June 9. Raising questions as to the accountability of Hong Kong’s police and the ability for officers to abuse their positions of power.
Since September there has been a massive escalation in violence on both sides of protesting. Thousands of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets. Alongside this the occasional live round being used to dispel protesters has led to much controversy around police tactics and methods.
October 1 saw the biggest protesting in this movement so far. This was because the October 1 is China’s national day. Mass protesting followed with the most violence seen so far, in which an 18-year-old man had been shot by a police officer in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories at point blank range.
All of this has meant that Hong Kong and its police force has been in a complex and recurring cycle of violence. What this means for many is, due to the conduct of the police in relation to the protesting and the wider public is one of a history of violence that is embedded within the policing culture of Hong Kong. A history in which looks doomed to continue its violence.