Vacancies in the Hong Kong Police Force have risen for the fourth straight year, recent government figures showed.

In response to a question asked by lawmaker Lai Tung-kwok at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, the Secretary for Security said in a written response that there have been 5,706 openings during the 2021-2022 financial year so far – an 8 per cent increase from the previous year when there were 5,258 vacancies.

Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The number of vacancies in 2018-2019 and 2019-20 were 1,440 and 2,235, respectively.

The figures – up until December 31 last year – show that most vacancies were for rank and file, or junior police officer, positions. The 2021-2022 recruitment target for junior police officers was 1,350. Just 423 have joined the force.

Vacancies across the ranks

There were unfilled positions across the ranks during 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, the figures showed.

During the 2021-2022 year up until December 31, there were 35 vacancies for gazetted officers, the highest tier in the force that includes commissioners and superintendents. There were 484 vacant positions for inspectors.

The passing-out parade at the Hong Kong Police College on November 27, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

There were no unfilled positions for gazetted officers in 2018-2019 and 2019-20. But there were 47 and 35 in the two years that followed, respectively.

“The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has been adopting proactive strategies and measures to recruit and retain talents in order to meet its operational needs and services,” the secretariat press office for the Security Bureau wrote. The HKPF has formulated detailed human resources and strategic plans to strengthen its efforts on recruitment, staff training and career development etc.”

Delay in retirement age

Last year, the police force said it would be increasing the retirement age of almost 12,000 police officers to 60 – up from 55 – amid difficulties in filling openings.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Months-long protests and unrest in the summer of 2019, initially against a controversial extradition bill, caused the city’s trust in the police force to plummet, surveys found.

The police force has reportedly placed advertisements abroad, including in Australia and Canada, in attempts to recruit officers.

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.