The Hong Kong police have said they will not rule out using wooden bullets to disperse protesters.

Police Commissioner Chris Tang told reporters during a tea gathering on Thursday that the force may consider using wooden baton rounds – or wooden bullets – which would cause more damage to the human body than rubber bullets, to clear protesters, reported Sing Tao Daily.

Police Senior Superintendent of the Operations Branch Wong Wai-shun said at a press conference on Friday that the force had adopted rubber bullets and replaced wood baton rounds 16 years ago, owing of their effectiveness.

Wood baton rounds
Wood baton rounds. File photo: Twitter/Joey Yams.

But Wong denied that wooden bullets would cause more damage, and said the police will use different weapons wherever it was appropriate, and will use the minimum force necessary.

“The police will constantly review the effectiveness of our ammunition,” he said.

The Civil Rights Observer group have accused the police of misusing or abusing the use of crowd control weapons including tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds. A reporter was previously blinded by a projectile in one eye after being shot in the face.

“The police commissioner seeking to do more damage with non-live ammunition and non-lethal weapons is a violation to the spirit of the United Nations’s ‘Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials’ to avoid deaths and injuries caused by force,” the group said.

august 4 china extradition protest causeway bay
Tear gas and rubber bullet munitions used by riot police in Causeway Bay. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Large scale protests have lasted for more than five months, initially against the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The sometimes-violent demonstrations have morphed into a wider movement seeking democracy and accountability over the police use of force.

More than 5,800 people have been arrested in relation to the protests, police have said.

Police Public Relations Branch Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen confirmed that the force was recruiting 1,000 retired police to serve in the force.

The government has also appointed more special constables from the Immigration Department and the Customs and Excise Department, Kwok said. There were around 200 personnel serving from the different departments, reported the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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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.