Police will look into any method for handling ongoing protests more effectively, Hong Kong’s security minister said on Wednesday, amid reports that officers may soon be armed with electroshock weapons.
Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong had asked Lee at a Legislative Council meeting about reports that police were planning to equip officers with electroshock weapons, such as tasers and stun guns. The South China Morning Post and TVB news channel both cited unnamed sources as saying that the measure was under consideration.
“Was using tear gas and rubber bullets on Hong Kong people not enough? And now you are introducing tasers?” Kwong asked. “Have there been any deaths arising from the use of electroshock weapons overseas?”
Lee did not give a direct answer to Kwong and, instead, said: “The Security Bureau will support any method that helps police in handling violence caused by rioters more efficiently, and will reduce the risk of injuries to both parties.”
“Police will look into the efficacy of a tool in terms of law enforcement, as well as its risks. I know that any equipment under consideration by the police has been used overseas by developed nations and that the equipment has a good track record,” he said. “Appropriate usage at the appropriate time can reduce the risk of injuries.”
Hong Kong has seen ongoing pro-democracy protests since last June. In total, police have fired around 30,000 rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, as well as other projectiles.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said that there have been cases overseas of tasers causing cardiac arrests and even deaths.”Increasing the range of equipment for officers, at the time of tense relations between the police and public, will only worsen the situation,” he said.
Claudia Yip of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor told HKFP that the use of tasers has caused controversies overseas. She added that some types of pepper spray are flammable and may cause fires when deployed.
However, police have not revealed the type of the pepper spray used in Hong Kong, Yip said. “This is cause for real concern,” she said.
She said police have refused to publicise the ingredients of the tear gas and water cannon jet used in the city and were therefore unlikely to disclose the voltage and duration limit of potential electroshock weapons.
“I do not believe the public will be able to monitor the details,” she said.