Hong Kong protests: Tear gas needed to prevent stampede, says security secretary

A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - Secretary of Security Lai Tung Kwok has defended police use of tear gas on protesters on Sept 28, saying not doing so could have led to a stampede with the possibility of deaths.

He said the crowds that day were "deliberately and incessantly" charging at the police cordon at Harcourt Road, one of the protest sites of the Occupy Central movement. Riot police had fired tear gas at the largely peaceful crowds, sparking off heavy criticisms of the government's handling of the protests. 

Lai also told reporters before a Legislative Council (Legco) meeting that police officers involved in an apparent assault on a protester early Wednesday morning in a clear-out operation on Lung Wo Road have been "removed" from their positions.

His comments came after a video emerged of a handcuffed man being beaten and kicked by police officers. The man has been identified as Civic Party member Ken Tsang. The pary has released pictures of Tsang with bruises on his face.

"Police are concerned over the issue and will carry out a just and fair investigation," Lai said.

"The policemen who are involved in the incident have been removed from their current working positions," he added, without specifying how many officers were being probed.

The South China Morning Post quoted Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok as saying that Tsang was punched and slapped in the face at a police station after the alleged beating was caught on camera. He said what the policemen have done was "clearly criminal" and having them removed from their duty would be insufficient, according to the newspaper.

Meantime, legislators meeting on Wednesday for the first time since the pro-democracy protests erupted more than two weeks ago, were locked in a shouting match.

Some lawmakers demanded to know if others had received financial advantages resulting in conflict of interest, when questioning the government's handling of the pro-democracy movement.

Legislative Council (Legco) president Jasper Tsang lamented: "This is worse off than the performance of primary school pupils."

Before the start of the session, protesters heckled the legislators as they entered the LegCo building. Former secretary of security Regina Ip was called "running dog" of the Chinese Communist Party.