Hong Kong police to take both 'hard' and 'soft' approaches against protests

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 07 Dec 2019

Hong Kong's Commissioner of Police Chris Tang speaking to the media at a news conference at the Regent hotel in Beijing, China. - Reuters

BEIJING/HONG KONG: The Hong Kong police will use both "hard" and "soft" approaches when dealing with protests, Hong Kong's police commissioner Chris Tang told reporters in Beijing on Saturday (Dec 7).

The police chief spoke ahead of a potentially large pro-democracy demonstration on Sunday and following nearly six months of sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong, sparked by a now-withdrawn bill allowing extradition to Mainland China.

Tang said the police will take a "humanistic" approach to minor incidents but warned of resolute measures against more violent actions, and added that he hopes the march will be peaceful.

Tang was appointed to his position in November. He was in Beijing for a "courtesy visit" to meet mainland officials, the Hong Kong police said in a short statement.

On the other side, China's head of public security called for stronger cooperation with Hong Kong's police, according to state media, as pro-democracy protesters vowed to hold another massive rally.

In a meeting with Hong Kong Police chief Tang, Chinese public security minister Zhao Kezhi said he hoped to "strengthen cooperation" and "jointly safeguard national security and the social stability of Hong Kong."

"The central government and public security ministry will always be a strong backup force for the hong kong police force," he told Tang in Beijing, according to a readout by the official news site of China's public security ministry.

Zhao's remarks come as Hong Kong has been battered by six months of often violent protests pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability in the most stark challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover.

The international finance hub has been ruled by a unique system guaranteeing greater freedoms than on the mainland -- rights protesters say are being steadily eroded by Beijing.

The protests are also backlit by fears Beijing may send in troops to squash the movement.

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has a permanent garrison based in Hong Kong which, under city law, can be deployed if the local government requests help to maintain social order.

At the meeting, Tang thanked China's public security bureau for its "vigorous support and help" and told Zhao that the city's police force would "throw all of its energy" into stopping violence and unrest in Hong Kong.

The force's reputation has suffered during the protests, with many accusing officers of brutality.

A new poll released on Friday (dec 6) by the HK Public Opinion Programme, which has tracked public sentiment for years, showed new record disapproval for the force with 40% of respondents now giving it the lowest mark of zero. - Agencies/Asian News Network

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