The police have confirmed following a two-day investigation that the officer who fired shots into the air at Monday’s Mong Kok protests did not violate Police General Orders.

Protesters angered by the government’s clearing of street hawkers in Mong Kok clashed with the police overnight on Monday. At around 2am, an officer fired two warning shots into the air. Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said on Tuesday that an inquiry would be held to investigate whether any firearm regulations were breached.

Earlier on Tuesday, Scholarism and an Apple Daily report claimed that police officers are forbidden from shooting into the air under any circumstances, as Hong Kong has a dense population and there is an inherent danger that stray bullets could injure passers-by.

police point gun
Policeman pointing a gun at protesters.

The police said on Thursday evening that the officer had “no alternative” but to use his firearm to ensure the safety of himself and his colleagues, and it was a “reasonable and appropriate” decision.

The police said that there were strict regulations surrounding the use of force; it must be for legitimate ends and the amount of force used must be the minimum, RTHK reported. Officers must do it under permissible circumstances and have to issue a warning to the other parties before doing so. They also must exercise a high level of restraint and when the purpose is achieved, they would have to cease using force immediately.


The dramatic ‘Fishball Revolution’ clashes as they unfoldedThe key moments before police fired live warning shots in Mong Kok during Monday night’s unrest. Full 8min video:

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Police acted “reasonably and professionally”

Former Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) member Edwin Cheng Shing-lung said after attending a radio talk show that the police acted reasonably and professionally in firing two shots into the air on Monday. He said that after the first shot, protesters in Mong Kok were still attacking a police officer who had passed out on the ground, and there was no choice but to fire a second shot.

Junior police union chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong also defended the throwing of bricks by police officers at protesters, saying that it was completely for the purpose of protecting their own lives.

joe chan
Joe Chan Cho-kwong. Photo:

However, Independent Police Complaints Council member Helena Wong Pik-wan told Apple Daily that although the regulations state officers can fire after issuing a warning in the event their lives are threatened, a bullet from a shot fired into the sky could hit neighbouring buildings or passers-by.

Wong also said that it could be seen from the officers hurling bricks that they themselves were on the verge of losing self-control, and questioned whether something had gone wrong with the field command. Wong urged a full investigation by the IPCC.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.