The Hong Kong government is studying plans to appoint “special constables” to add manpower to the police force, according to a report in the pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily.

On Monday, the newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying that the government was considering a proposal to appoint volunteers from other disciplinary forces – including the Fire Services, Immigration, Customs and Excise, and Correctional Services departments.

The source said that, although the police force has more than 30,000 staff members, only a few thousand were qualified to act as riot police and they had to work in shifts. Thus, borrowing trained officers from other departments to become special constables would relieve pressure on the force.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

The source added that the government may use the 1922 Emergency Regulations Ordinance – which gives the chief executive unlimited power to enact laws – to launch the plan. Or, powers could be used under section 40 of the Public Order Ordinance. The section states that “The Chief Executive may at any time by order authorize the Commissioner of Police to appoint in writing any person who is willing so to act as a special constable for such period as may be specified in such order by the Chief Executive.”

A special constable has the same duties, powers, protection and immunities as a police officer, according to the Public Order Ordinance.

City-wide protests against a now-scrapped extradition bill have entered their 19th week, as wider anger over police misconduct and demands for democracy engulf the movement. The police have arrested more than 2,500 protesters since June.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Tang Ping-keung said at a press conference on Monday that the police would consider all means to help the force enforce the law effectively.

“We would not rule it out,” he said. “But at this moment, no officers from other disciplinary forces have been appointed as special constables.”

More emergency legislation

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that he did not understand how officers from other disciplinary forces could work for the police force, since their training programmes were completely different.

James To. Photo: Apple Daily.

To said the government could use auxiliary police or retired officers for non-frontline tasks: “[The government’s plan] could be to pave the way for enacting more laws using the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Kowloon) Wong Ka-wing said on a RTHK radio programme that he did not have full details on the matter when asked about the Sing Tao report.

Wong said there 587 cases of fires related to the protests between June 9 and October 7. There were suspicious circumstances for 347 cases, and 44 cases involved petrol bombs and other accelerants, according to a preliminary investigation.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

He said that, under new guidelines, firefighters can assist the police to remove barricades under safe circumstances and conditions that would not affect their emergency service response: “We want society to return to normal, and at the same time allow our firefighters and ambulances to head to emergency scenes,” he said.

“Our colleagues will make appropriate arrangements according to changes in the situation, and our colleagues have a responsibility to assist the government in handling the current crisis,” he added.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.