Hong Kong may hire more police officers after riots, violence

A rioter clashing with the police over illegal street food hawkers early this year in Hong Kong.
A rioter clashing with the police over illegal street food hawkers early this year in Hong Kong.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • The authorities in Hong Kong are mulling over a boost to the city's police force in the light of a surge in public protests and violence, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported yesterday, citing anonymous sources.

A confidential management proposal, approved by a high-level committee led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, suggests as many as 900 officer posts be created to strengthen the force, the sources said.

About 320 of the new positions will be added to the force's Emergency Unit, which currently has about 900 officers, while 180 will form a new Police Tactical Unit (PTU) company, according to the SCMP.

"If all (Emergency Unit) officers are deployed to handle a major incident such as the Mong Kok riot, there will be fewer officers on the streets maintaining law and order and emergency services to the public will be affected," a government source told the SCMP.

The source suggested the boost was in response to the riot, where angry mobs clashed with police over a government crackdown on illegal street food hawkers early this year.


It will be the first major manpower boost for the unit in two or three decades if the staffing budget is approved by the Legislative Council's Finance Committee next year, another source said.

Under the proposal, a new incident bureau will be set up to handle public order events, collect intelligence and carry out coordination work.

The elite Organised Crime and Triad Bureau will also be beefed up, the SCMP reported.

On Saturday, Mrs Lam appeared to have confirmed the expansion plan while addressing a fight crime conference. She noted the number of public order events had soared from 1,190 in 1997 to 7,852 last year.

The first half of this year alone saw 5,602 such cases, according to the SCMP.

"I can announce here that in 2017-18 the (police force) will see a boost again because of the efforts of the Secretary for ecurity," she said.

"The Financial Secretary and I also feel that there is a need to give the police force more manpower so as to maintain law and order in society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'More police officers may be hired after riots, violence'. Print Edition | Subscribe