• jeremiahbull

Undercover Cops : exposed and threatened in HK

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

It is well-known that the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) employs undercover officers as a tactic for managing protests in the city. However, one has to wonder what the role of these officers is, and whether they are actually fulfilling their intended purpose? There are signs that in some respects the work of those officers is worse than ever!

After protest action on Sunday 10 May 2020 (Mother's Day), HK's Police chief was reported to have acknowledged that the treatment of reporters during protests in shopping malls was “undesirable” and that officers “should have been more professional".

In the middle of the 2019 bout of protests, the HKPF went on record saying they never used pepper spray against journalists (see the news conference footage below). Clearly the video evidence available then was damning, although the police claim journalists came between them and violent protesters and that pepper spray was used in self-defence.

There have been numerous complaints about Police attacks on journalists. The HK Journalists Association have even filed for a judicial review with the High Court in HK,

seeking multiple orders including a declaration that Police conduct represented an unlawful breach of freedom of the press, opinion and expression guaranteed by the Basic Law.

John Tse, the Officer speaking in the news conference above, is now the commander of the Kwai Tsing District Police Office. He is reported to have indicated in a district council meeting "that he has never seen a police beating a civilian". Judging from these images we wonder exactly how often senior officers in the HKPF turn a blind eye! We know this image doesn't show plainclothes officers, but if the HKPF can say what you see "is an act of self-defence", then we can say these people are clearly plainclothes police officers! Fair is fair!

Just one day after the Chief of Police's comment about his officers needing to be 'more professional' video shot and released by reporters from Apple Daily recorded two undercover officers arresting a man in Sha Tin Mall. Scattered groups of protesters had gathered to mock Chief Executive (CE) Carrie Lam on her 63rd birthday, and to sing protest songs.

At around 8.30pm, a maskless man (undercover Loud Cop) in a navy blue shirt subdued a man, wrestling him to the ground as a crowd watched. There are several different video recordings of the incident from different angles (It's worth viewing them all!).

There was a group of reporters about 2 metres away filming events, who were posing NO threat whatsoever. Another officer, also in plainclothes was assisting the Loud Cop who held the protester on the ground. They had time to take out their mobile phone, though it is not clear whether they wanted to film their surroundings or call for help. At no stage was the protester handcuffed. The assisting officer took a can of pepper spray out of his backpack and passed it to the Loud Cop who was still sitting on the back of the arrested protester to hold him down.

Yes, somebody did point an umbrella towards the Loud Cop!

But, about 1 minute into the altercation, the Loud Cop sprays towards the group of journalists who had gathered on the other side of him, and at a distance, to film the arrest being made. He illegally threatens the journalists with further pepper spray if they do not leave the area (see the video in this RTHK report).

We note that a local newspaper report of the incident falsely reported that just one journalist was pepper-sprayed. What lazy, cheating journalism!

Comments made on Reddit social media platform were hostile towards the undercover officers:

WaterstarRunner...."Oh, this is a silly situation that an unskilled operation commander has created.....There's no actual law and order achieved by using undercover in protests to make arrests. These two officers are clearly incapable of protecting themselves from a non enemy, let alone able to protect any members of the public. My point is this is a show of extreme weakness, not a show of strength."

Ricebowlchina...."So threatened that they had time to stop and look through a bag to find said pepper spray and even after assaulting the people they felt threatened by, those people still did not attack them. These criminals need to be locked up receive the same torture they are inflicting upon these innocent Hong Kong citizens."

Of course this is just ONE little incident among many, and the only thing that makes it remarkable is that it comes on the heel of the Police Chief's comments about officers' need to behave with professionalism.

We know that undercover cops have been accused of other things over the past weeks and months, including pepper-spraying and attempting to arrest one of their own! It's hard to prove that the undercover officers really did throw molotov cocktails, hurl bricks, instigate brawls, and carry out acts of vandalism to portray the pro-democracy movement in a bad light. Did they really kidnap people and were they responsible for torture and murder of protesters? There is some video footage that does serve as evidence that undercover cops are at work in HK, but for now protesters have to remain alert for unscrupulous undercover cops.

It is no surprise that increasingly people in HK and in foreign lands believe that HK is now something of a police state. We have to ask whether the undercover officers in the videos here are more threatened and exposed by what we see than the their own Police force are. We should also wonder what is most threatened and exposed by the undercover police work: Press freedom, respect for the Police, or the dignity and human rights of the people of HK.

Wethepeopleofhk will keep calling for an independent inquiry into specific incidents in which there is a grievance about police actions: for Police officers who are out of control to be held accountable.

Jeremiah B.

See our other blogs related to freedom of the press: and on the end of noble careers in the HKPF.

UPDATE: 15 May 2020, The HK Police watchdog organisation (IPCC or Independent Police Complaints Commission) releases a report that clears the HK Police force of misconduct during protests in 2019 citing online 'propaganda', but does say there is room for improvement in performance.

UPDATE: 4 June 2020, Plainclothes police officers turned the peaceful candlelight vigil marking the #TiananmenSquareMassacre into scenes of chaos, by moving in to make arrests, pepper-spraying people, storming the crowd and threatening them with raised batons.

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