The Police Stories at WTO

In Discussions on Civilian Journalism, I assert that a fair and balanced picture of the WTO demonstrations require the police side of the story, not as observed by outsiders but from the police themselves.  I am not aware of any Hong Kong police bloggers.  So I'll translate some newspaper interviews.  This is not the same as the police telling it on their own for two reasons: it was written by someone else and may be distorted and it lacked the immediacy and depth of the Discussions on Civilian Journalism.

(Sing Tao)

On the second day of deployment at the Wanchai demonstration zone, the police used female officers in the front line as the soft approach.  Actually, the more violent organizations had already declared that they would attack that day, except the senior police officers did not realize that.

According to a police inspector in charge at the demonstration zone, when they first confronted with the Korean farmers on the first day, they found that the other side tried to push their way through.  So this time, they decided to use female officers at the front.

At first, they thought that the demonstrators might become more gentle with the female officers in the front.  Later, they realized that they were mistaken.  He said that he did not expect that the demonstrators' tactic would be to suddenly rush against the as-yet-unformed line of female officers.  He explained that many female officers were new on the job and inexperienced.  They were therefore intimidated by the actions of the demonstrators, and the line was almost breached after multiple assaults.

Other police officers were unhappy about the mistakes in command.  According to a police officer defending Marsh Road, the commander did not grasp the situation and transferred the riot police at Marsh Road to help out at Hung Hing Road.  This left only a couple of dozen of police officers equipped with round shields at Marsh Road.

The demonstrators grabbed the steel barriers and charged.  The dozen or so police officers fell into disarray and their line was broken up.  Other police officers hurried over from the Wanchai police station.  He said: "All of a sudden, there were Korean farmers and demonstrators everywhere around us.  It was discouraging ... the defense was overrun."

He pointed out that the Korean farmers were going to set fire to the police truck, so an emergency call was put out and the commander quickly sent the riot police back to Tonnochy Road.  This allowed the demonstrators to go across Gloucester Road and enter Central Plaza.

(Apple Daily)

According to a veteran member of the New Territories North mobile team, he and nine of his colleagues were injured.  He first showed up with a squad of more than 40 people to assume duty in Wanchai at 6am on the day before yesterday.  The demonstrators were escalating the level of violence.  The police quickly reacted by transferring more than 20 people away while getting the remaining ten or so people to assume duty at Lockhart Road.  They were originally supposed to only engage in support activities.  Due to the emergency, they did not have time to change into anti-riot gear.  At Lockhart Road, they were equipped only with shield, baton and pepper spray.

Quickly, more than one hundred demonstrators came over.  Some of them then charged the police officers.  Faced with insufficient support and equipment, they could not cope.  They were also sprayed with fire extinguishers.  But their commander ordered them to defend the line and they tried as best as they could with their shields and batons.  They even ran out of pepper spray.  So the demonstrators overran the police line.

According to the police veteran, when his colleagues were backing up at Marsh Road, there were citizens on both sides of the road and some of them were cheering the South Korean farmers.  At first, he thought that the citizens were cheering the police, but when he realized that they were cheering the Koreans, he said: "It felt bad, it felt bad!"

(Ming Pao)

"It's been almost 30 hours ..."  Ten members of the mobile team at New Territories North were injured after the battle on the night before yesterday.  But they insisted on staying on duty until yesterday morning, when they went to the hospital for treatment.  A police officer said that he started working at 6am on the day before yesterday.  They were supposed to be in second-line duty.  But the change in circumstances caused their front-line colleagues to be called away elsewhere.  So they went to the front and fought with the demonstrators.

"We were adequately equipped, but the mobilization was too rapid and we were not psychologically prepared ..."  They did not expect the intensity of the clash would be far beyond imagination, but they had no choice but to deal with it.  "The White Rock boat people were not that tough.  I was really afraid at the time," said a police officer who had experienced the White Rock boat people riot.  During the action, the police had no time for meals.  They only ate bananas and dried goods.

At the Gloucester Road area where the demonstrators are surrounded, there are still 500 riot police in place.  As the demonstrators looked peaceful, the police were able to take turns to rest.  At the scene, large numbers of police in riot gear and wearing helmets are lying against the railings and sleeping.  Those without railing leaned back against each other.  Some police officers held on to their batons and shields while they slept, ready to assume duty at any time.

Since the police must remain agile, they cannot wear heavy clothing.  So they all wore light police gear.  After midnight, the cold wind was howling and people were shivering.  Fortunately, the seige area was right next to the Wanchai police station and so the order was given out to find jackets from the station for those on duty outside.  One police officer received a jacket with "three stripes" (=sergeant) and joked, "I got promoted!"

The arrest process took 17 hours to complete at 2pm yesterday.  The 500 police officers at the scene breathed a collective sigh of relief.  They then got into formation on Glouceter Road.  The police either rattled their long glass shields on the ground, or else they used their batons to hit their small round shields.  At this moment, the commander gave two yells and the entire formation yelled, "Hurray!"  The citizens watching from the pedestrian overpass applauded.  Then the police marched away.

(CrazzzyWinggggg ...)

前日收工之後突然emergency turnout
return station full IS suit standby
好想出去打呀 睇到d din korean踩爛d鐵馬做鐵枝
全間station 既人都要返黎standby
跟住話我地unit 即刻出維園arrest
勁開心 可以打
因為拉左d crazy korean返去。
我一早諗定到時用警棍好定oc foam好。

[in translation]

After getting off work the day before yesterday there was a sudden emergency turnout
return station full IS suit standby
I am find the helmet and the gas mask to go on standby
I really wanted to go and fight.  I saw those crazy Koreans broke up the steel barriers to get the steel rods
I really wanted to go out and help the other colleagues
Everyone at the station had to go back on standby
Then they said that our unit must go to Victoria Park to make arrets
I'm so happy.  I can fight.
But we after we went to Victoria Park, we went to the Kwun Tong station
because we arrested the crazy Koreans and took them there.
Very exciting.
I was thinking earlier about whether to use the police truncheon or the oc foam.
This mc6 was a rare occasion.
If I became a police officer earlier, it would be better.  I could have been fighting the whole time.
Anyway, although it was quite tough to work for more than 10 hours,
it was a hard-to-get exerience.


[in translation]

Thank you for your understanding of the work of frontline police officers.

Actually, the 27,000 plus persons involved in police duties (including Police Commissioner Dick Lee) all agree that citizens protest to protect citizens rights.  The police respect the freedom of expression, and the police will make it easy to have legal and peaceful public activities, but they will not tolerate illegal activities.  Such were the directives that Police Commissioner Dick Lee gave to all HKMC personnel many months ago.  Therefore, the police will make it easy for all legal demosntrators or organizations.  I very much agree with your understanding that "citizens may protest but they cannot endanger others, especially police officers who are enforcing the law."  Therefore, I agree completely with your first viewpoint.

On the second viewpoint: about the inappropriate use of violence, I was not on duty at the secene, but from the direct broadcast on Cable TV, the police only used pepper spray and truncheones to fight back the charge of the demosntrators and their attempt to seize the sheilds.  You have to understand that the personnel manning the line did not employ any offensive tactic.  They merely defended the line.  If the demonstrators did not charge the line and seize the shields, there are no way to use the pepper spary and truncheons.

From the other side, after the demonstrators charged the police line the first time and then later again, the police personnel at the scene already had sufficient evidence and legal basis to employ offensive tactics to arrest those demonstrators who used force and to disperse the crowd.  Why did they not take action?  Because I believe that they understood the demands of the demosntrators, their issues and their state of mind.

There was also the consideration that any arrests would lead to even more clashes, with unthinkable consequences.  I want to tell you that on December 17, 2005, the demonstrators organized themselves into multiple groups to charge various police lines.  They used steel barriers to ram at the police line, they strip off the steel bars from the barriers to use to attack the police officers and, worst yet, they used slings to fire steel bolts at the police so that many police officers were injured.  They used plastic roples to pull the police officers away from the police line.  "A police officer was caught in the neck and passed away because he could not breathe.  Fortunately, he did not die."  But they continued to be restrained, toleratant and determined to defend their line.  When the line broke, they retreated to Gloucester Road but they did not escalate their use of force.  Are these acts of demonstration "peaceful civilian demands"?  Are they not also "disturbances"?

I hope that you did not forget that in the 1980's, the Hong Kong police went on strike.  The taxi drivers did not employ any force, and they can be called peaceful "citizen petitioners."  Although criminal elements took the occasion to commit arson and looting to trigger a riot.  To this date, our elder colleagues still spoke of those striking taxi drivers with respect.  Therefore, there is no issue of inappropriate use of violence.

Concerning the police planning and policy on use of force, the deployment of the barriers was to lock down the conference area in order to guarantee that the meeting would not be interrupted and to minimize the demand on police personnel.  For those blockades, we need to maintain certain entry points to allow emergency vehicles to come and go.  Overseas police tend to maintain their watch behind the barriers, and there are some advantages as well as disadvantages.  The overseas experience tells us that those barriers can become the weapons for the demosntrators, and the amount of injuries become unimaginable.  From the viewpoint of a representative of the police personnel, I find it unacceptable when I consider occupational safety and health.

Concerning the 1,000 demonstrators detained on Gloucester Road, according to colleagues at the scene, the demonstrators were dispersed at Harbour Road but they convened on Gloucster to hold a sit-down in order to shut all traffic near the Convention Centre.  The police announced in English, Korean, Putonghua and Cantonese that the demonstrators have been detained.  Of course, once the law enforcers announce the detention, everything follows in accordance to procedure, and none of the detainees can be allowed to leave.  It is a difficult problem to process 1,000 detained demosntrators.  I believe that any five-star Hong Kong hotel would not be able to handle 1,000 guests moving in at the same time.  Besides, we have to process each detainee in accordance with the legal procedure.  Here, I am enclosing an open letter from a retired police officer to Bishop Joseph Zen so that you can understand in great detail.

Kong Kin-chong (江建忠).

(Pepper spray is a natural product and does not harm the human body.  If it is available on the market, it is a good seasoning.)

(InMediaHK)  A Police Officer's Self-Vindication After the Battle

[in translation]

I am a police officer who clashed with the Koreans at the intersection of Tonnochy Road and Lockhart Road.  Before that, the march was quite peaceful.  Following prior agreement, the demonstratators went down Lockhart Road and turned into Marsh Road.  Everybody was normal and the Koreans were singing, banging the drums and inviting spectators to join in a friendly manner.  But suddenly, the demonstrators refused to follow instructions.  Lead by a group of masked men wearing goggles, they charged the first police line.  In order to calm down the emotions of the demonstrators, that line consisted completely of female members from the Tango Company and they were unarmed.  So they were quickly overrun by the demonstrators, and some were injured by the wooden planks carried by the demonstrators, with even scratches on their faces.  Suddenly, several hundred people were charging at the sound of drumbeats.  It was no joke.  The feeling at the time was like the enemy attacking in Lord Of The Ring Part 3.  Honestly speaking, we are just young people in our twenties and we were quite acared.  When we fought, it turned out that the Koreans wore body armor underneath their clothes and they used long bamboo sticks and steel bars to stab at us.  They even used slings to fire iron bolts at us.  It hurts when we get hit.  There were also unidentified liquid which we felt to hurt a little bit (那那地).  Afterwards, I checked the helmet and found it to be scorched in places.

After charging us for more than ten minutes, they retreated and led the women come up front.  They want to get some unambiguous photographs by reporters of us beating women.  Meanwhile, the head of the demonstration had just reached DPAA at Hung Hing Road.  The battle line was streched out very long.  Two of our groups were attacked from both sides (because Hennessey Road had already fallen to the rioters).  Then they put ropes on the trooper truck to pull it down, but our Wanchai colleagues went on the other side to fight a tug of war.  Because the Benz truck was heavy, it was not toppled over or else there could be many injuries.  After we defended the location for many hours, the Koreans retreated and we successfuly defended Tonnochy Road.  I was stabbed in the throad, and my two hads were bruised.  Many other colleagues sustained injuries.

The disturbance continued to the night.  The demonstrators were trapped underneath the bridge on Gloucester Street under Fleming Road.  In order to ensure that the December 18 march could take place, these 900 people had to be temporarily detained.  Besides, there was no doubt that they broke multiple Hong Kong laws, and thus began the 11 hour arrest action.

We did not wear enough clothing.  In the cold winter, many of my colleagues got sick.  Many stayed on the job with injuries.  I had a blister on the bottom of my foot, and it hurts a lot!

I had no idea how hard this is before.  I worked a full 24 hours before I returned to the PHQ training area to rest.
I wanted to tell Albert Ho that the police were also cold and hurting, and they had time or place to urinate or defecate!

But I am discouraged because on the streets, the people of Hong Kong scolded us, often with curse words, about just what we were protecting?  This has left me and many colleagues confused and discouraged.

As public servants, we have no right for political will, and we are often the object of citizen discontent.  I can understand that.  My forebears have said: This sort of thing comes with the job!

The citizens have the freedom to think whatever they want.  But I would only like you to think about the following:
1. I oppose WTO as well.  I sympathesize with the demosntrators.  But can the anger of the demonstrators be allowed to destroy our homeland?
2. If you were a police officer, would you allow demonstrators to bring iron bars, sling shots and knives into the Convention Centre and refuse to take action?  Is this deliberate obstruction?
3. The police was tolerant at every stage.  If they wanted to have a violent suppresion, it would be done quickly.  But what they did wait to use tear gas at the last moment on Harbor road?  Should they have used it in the residential areas around Lockhart and Jaffe roads?  Were the police so weak?
5. The demonstrators may deserve sympathy, but that is not a reason to riot.  Was this a peaceful demosntration?  Not only did this damage Hong Kong, but they even accused the Hong Kong police of deliberate obstruction.  How can they say that just to get off from being prosecuted?
5. The people of Hong Kong, do you know how to tell right from wrong?

Thank you for reading this.


[in translation]

An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph Zen

Recently, Hong Kong Catholic Church bishop Joseph Zen criticized the actions of the Hong Kong police in dealing with the violent clashes and called it "Hong Kong's shame."

He condemned the Hong Kong police for not knowing right from wrong and that they were irresolute about handling the violent demonstrators.  They should have immediately arrested the troublemakers and protect the police.  They should not watied until everybody calmed down and then detained more than 1,000 people overnight and then laid seiged to them for an inhumanely long period of time.  Furthermore, it was irresponsible to treat this entire group of peaceful demonstrators as the same.

He continued to say: "The majority of the people there were peaceful.  They had stopped any activity.  The police took the opportunity the 900 people.  But they were ill-prepared and they took a long time to clear the scene, so that many people had no food, drink or access to rest rooms.  There was insufficient space at the prison.  They were sent to the Kwun Tong court and they have to take bus rides.  This was totally irresponsible.  It was so cold, but they were not taken care of.  I feel that this is Hong Kong's shame."

Concerning Bishop Zen's criticisms above, I hope that the media can publish my response in order to correct the record.

First of all, anti-riot work is an extremely professional line of work.  It is not as simple as outsiders imagine.  When the front line police face violent attacks, they cannot leave their line to make arrests even though there is sufficient evidence to do so.  Any rash action will expose the line and endanger all the personnel.  Leaving the group will expose one to attacks, and one's colleagues may not be able to save oneself.

The appropriate action is for the commander at the scene to order the entire line to move forward.  After the front line persons has passed by the target persons, then the persons behind can control the targets and make arrests.  Therefore, it is not easy to make arrests during clashes!

The more common method is to take video recordings of the violent attacks and then enable undercover officers to tail the attackers and make arrests afterwards.  Of course, when all the demonstrators wear the same clothing and mask their faces, it is very difficult to identify individuals afterwards!

The rarely known fact is the the most arrestees, the fewer front line personnel will become available.  To arrest one uncooperative demonstrators rqeuires at least two persons, sometimes as much of four persons.  The prisoners have to be transported, supervised and taken care off.  This is a tremendous demand on resources and it made the tight supply of resources even more stressed.

Therefore, the best choice of anti-riot tactic is to be self-restrained and tolerant and permit the demonstrators to release their discontent.  Only when the situation becomes intolerable will arrests be made under the right circumstances.

In response to the second point, should the so-called 900 people in a peaceful sit-in be arrested?  According to the television broadcast, these demonstrators stopped the cars in the road and then joined together to charge the Convention Centre.  When they charged the police line, the police had issued verbal warnings as well as raised English- and Chinese-language warning signs.  Then the police used tear gas and pepper stray to force the rioters to back off.  But these 900 persons did not disperse.  Instead, they sat down for a "peaceful sit-in."  Should the police permit these 900 people paralyze this thoroughfare?  Are these 900 people an organized group?  They have broken the regulations for the demonstration, they have violently broken through the police line and now they are paralyzing this major traffic thoroughfare.  Should the police take action to remove them from the scene?

In response to the third point, the police was not prepared to arrest so many people from the same spot.  The anti-riot tactic is to disperse people.  But these 900 people were having a "peaceful sit-in."  The police was therefore forced to clear the scene.  Once they decide to detain everyone, they had to guarantee the personal safety of each detainee.  This is not a question of arranging for the vehicles and place of detention.  The police need to arrange for 900 people, one for one, from the moment of arrest to bringing them onto the vehicle and then to the police station.  This police officer had no other duty beyond guaranteeing that this individual will receive the legally required treatment.  If there should be any complaints, then this police officer will be held responsible.  Therefore, it took time to make those arrangements.

The largest responsiblity was that the detainees refused to cooperate.  The police had to arrange for more people, with two or four police officers per person in order to carry the detainee onto the vehicle.  Furthermore, the transportation had to be done in waves, so that the amount of time was increased.

Bishop Zen mentioned the problems of food, water and restroom access during the seige.  Did he care about the 2,000 police officers who surrounded the demonstrators?  From the day of the first clash, these police officers had only a few hours of rest each day.  They had no sleep, they did not eat enough, they did not have enough clothing and they had no time for the restroom.  They stood on the defense line day and ngiht, and endured the relentless violent attacks!  While they surrounded the so-called 900 demonstrators at the sit-in, they have to be alert that these people may resist or run away.  They could not relax at all.  They must deal with the fact that there could be even more violent confrontations when the conference closes the next day.

I only agree with Bishop Zen that the police was not completely prepared to arrest such a large number of protestors.  They were not perfect in the details of their arrangements.  When faced with the sudden arrival of 900 people, even a five-star hotel could not have provided the usual quality service!  The police used 14 police stations to receive these detainees who spoke neither Chinese nor English.  If the treatment was less than perfect, it should not be characterized as "the shame of Hong Kong."

Finally, the Bishop is out of this world and doesn't realize the machinations of people.  When the police command was forced to arrest these 900 people, they had to assess whether this caused them to relocate their resources with respect to dealing with a general assault the next day!

In reviewing the performance for the Hong Kong police in planning and executive, it has shwon its professionalism, restrain, determination, humanism and care.  When the detainees left, even though they don't share a common language, they appreciated that they were treated differently in Hong Kong than in South Korea and they waved goodbye to the police in earnestness!

I want to use this open letter to clear out some of the acerbity that WTO has brought to Hong Kong.  This will close the case when the international demonstrators leave Hong Kong.

Ling Kin-kong
Frontline police personnel
December 22, 2005