A pro-democracy lawmaker has questioned the need for the police to set up a new division to tackle protests, disasters and terrorism, prompted by the Mong Kok unrest last February.

The police confirmed to HKFP that a new division under the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau is being set up to handle investigation and law enforcement related to terrorism, large-scale disasters and criminal offences arising from public events.

File photo: In-Media.

The police said the division was established “in response to the global trend of terrorism” and following reviews and evaluations of the force’s handling of “large-scale disasters” and cross-district public events.

The division is led by a superintendent, who oversees two chief inspectors and four senior inspectors. There are four teams under the division and partial operations commenced July 1.

Secretary for Security John Lee said on Sunday that the move came out of the police’s experience during the Mong Kok unrest, which broke out over the police’s clearing of street hawkers during Chinese New Year in 2016.

Lam Cheuk-ting. Photo: In-Media.

However, pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting questioned the need to set up a new division for this purpose. “The majority of Hong Kong’s large-scale protests, marches and gatherings over the past years have been held peacefully. Those that really involve serious instances of clashes are extremely rare. Do the police really need to deploy manpower to specifically deal with these cases?”

Lam added that the harsh sentences imposed on those involved in the Mong Kok protests would already have a sufficient deterrent effect, RTHK reported.

Pro-establishment lawmaker and chair of Legislative Council’s Panel on Security Gary Chan said the police’s decision was acceptable as there have been more “suspected illegal activities” related to protests in Hong Kong.

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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.