The police will establish two new Police Tactical Unit teams with 340 officers to cope with future public order events, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok announced on Wednesday. Lai also revealed that 797 police officers were injured last year whilst on duty – a five-year low.

Lai’s comments were made in response to a Legislative Council question submitted by pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin. Wong asked for details of police officers injured or killed on duty.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok. File Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

“The duty of police officers is to serve the public. However, in recent years, there have been participants of public assemblies, demonstrations and processions whose behaviour has become increasingly violent,” Lai said. He added that, during the Mong Kok protests that broke out over the government’s clearing of street hawkers during Chinese New Year, demonstrators threw bricks and glass bottles at officers.

“This situation is worrying… If police officers are injured and – as a result are unable to perform their duties in preserving law and order as well as protecting the safety of lives and property of the public – the general public is to suffer,” he said.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

According to Lai, around 100 police officers were injured during the Mong Kok unrest, while the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 caused injury to around 130 officers. From 2011 to 2015 a total of 4,600 officers were injured and two have died on duty.

The figures released by the government showed that there has been a decreasing trend in the number of officers injured on duty, from 1,025 in 2011 to 797 in 2015.

Photo: GovHK.

Lai said that the police deserve respect for their professional spirit and selfless contribution, and that “injury or death on duty of even one police officer is too many and has to be prevented by all means.”

He also said that a review committee has been set up following the protest to look into areas such as police operations and equipment, and the force will be supplying officers with additional personal protective gear and body video cameras. The proposal to enhance manpower and equipment has been supported by the Chief Executive, Lai said.

Lai further announced that, in addition to the procurement of three “specialised crowd management vehicles” with water spray functions as was announced earlier, two additional Police Tactical Unit teams composing of 340 officers in total will be set up this financial year to improve the police’s flexibility in manpower deployment and overall response capacity.

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.