Hong Kong police change guidelines on use of force in protests

A police officer holds up a shield against protesters at a demonstration at Taikoo station in Hong Kong, China October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong police loosened guidelines on their use of force in the run-up to demonstrations on Oct. 1, giving them greater power to deal with protesters in difficult situations, according to police documents seen by Reuters.

On Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, officers deployed a record level of force and firearms, including firing about 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds.

While most chapters of the Police General Orders are published online, its Chapter 29 - entitled Force Procedures Manual - is not available to the public.

Following are main changes to Chapter 29:

- The removal of a line saying “officers will be accountable for their own actions”, stating only that “officers on the ground should exercise their own discretion to determine what level of force is justified in a given situation”.

- The addition of a suggested method of force for when officers are facing “defensive resistance”, they are advised to consider new methods, including tear gas and pepper spray.

- The inclusion of advice for officers to consider using additional actions such as rubber bullets, water cannon with tear liquid and bean bag rounds against any cases of “active aggression”.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Robert Birsel