The Hong Kong Police Force has said that they have reminded a riot police officer to remain professional after he was filmed chanting “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” during an operation in Yau Ma Tei on Friday evening.

Police were dispersing crowds who had gathered to mark a year since tear gas was released around the legislature during an anti-extradition law demonstration. The officer was filmed making the apparently sarcastic chant and saying “here is not America” whilst his colleagues cordoned off the area.

A police spokesperson told HKFP that there are guidelines to govern the behaviour of officers: “Management of the Force is concerned and is of the view that the language used by the frontline police officer yesterday (June 12) was not relevant to his duties at [the] scene. The officer has been rebuked and reminded to always present himself professionally and enhance his sensitivity.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has put renewed focus on the police treatment of African-Americans in the US. Country-wide anti-racism protests were triggered last month by the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of police as officers put him in a chokehold.

Frontline discipline

The Hong Kong Police spokesperson said that officers found to have committed a breach of discipline “will be subject to investigation under established mechanism” and may face punishment.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned the officer’s behaviour.

Last September, a report from NGO Amnesty International said that Hong Kong police used reckless tactics and retaliatory violence in their crackdown on protesters, resulting in injuries such as broken bones and internal bleeding.

However, a police watchdog – criticised for lacking independence – largely cleared the force of wrongdoing last month.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.