Hong Kong’s government has allocated three times as much money to buy police equipment in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and will also spend more on salaries for officers, according to the 2021-22 spending plan announced on Wednesday.
Police will see a 7.7 per cent rise in their overall budget, from 2020-21’s revised HK$23.2 billion to HK$25.06 billion, in the wake of widespread street unrest in 2019 and a new Beijing-imposed national security law.
The most significant increase of 15.3 per cent is for the Operations programme, which includes responding to “civil disturbances or terrorist incidents” and crowd management.
The budget allocated for police equipment will triple from the revised estimate of HK$37 million in 2020-21 to HK$124.5 million in 2021-22.
In addition, funding for buying police specialised vehicles will more than double from HK$148 million to HK$414 million. The budget for salaries will rise by 8.3 per cent to HK$17.6 billion.
During the period from June-November 2019, at the height of the protests, police officers earned a total of around HK$950 million in overtime pay.
Police were largely cleared of wrongdoing during the protests by Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) in May last year. But a group of five international experts hired to advise the body resigned, citing a crucial shortfall “in the powers, capacity and independent investigative capability” of the watchdog.
In a report by British policing expert Clifford Stott who withdrew from the IPCC, police were said to have played a pivotal role in radicalising pro-democracy protests in 2019 by deploying indiscriminate force.
Apart from police funding, prison management expenses will also increase by 5.9 per cent in 2021-22. The Correctional Services Department will have HK$194 million more in its budget for prison management, which will rise to HK$3.5 billion in 2021-22.
The overall budget for the department will increase by 4.9 per cent, from HK$4.48 billion to HK$4.7 billion.