Hong Kong police to draft in 200 special officers as anti-government protests roll on

Christy Leung

Hong Kong’s police force will enlist about 200 officers from immigration and customs authorities next week to ease the burden on staff stretched to the limit by anti-government protests, sources have said.

It will be the second batch of special officers seconded to the embattled force, after about 90 elite prison officers, nicknamed the Prison Flying Tigers, reported for duty with the police last week.

Government sources said on Saturday the temporary recruits – about 100 from the Immigration Department and a similar number from the Customs and Excise Department – would be brought in on a voluntary basis and help the force with support work.

“Though these law enforcers have received basic arms training, including using a revolver as well as batons and pepper spray, they won’t be deployed to the front line to deal with protesters. Their duties will be assigned according to the force’s needs,” one source said.

“It could free up more police resources for the ground-zero demonstrations for months.”

The Post was told that the recruited immigration officers were mainly from the investigation branch and Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre. Those from the detention centre had been trained by the Prison Flying Tigers to use pepper ball launchers, for use during prison riots.

Some customs officers, especially those who guard the coast, are trained to use MP5 submachine guns and Remington 870 shotguns. The shotguns, which can fire beanbag rounds and rubber bullets, are commonly seen wielded by police at protest dispersal operations.

Another government source said all the seconded officers would work on a part-time basis to discharge the duties of special constables only when needed. Otherwise, they would continue to work with their usual departments.

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The source noted the added costs of working with the police in the current political climate.

“It took a lot of courage for our officers to agree to take the new challenge,” the source said. “They have overcome a lot of burdens, such as pressure from family, as police are seen as an attack target by protesters. Police officers and even the new cops from the prison authority have fallen victim to doxxing.”

“The government and the departments will provide anything that can help ease their burden.”

It was understood that newly installed police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung would officially appoint the loanees next week. When on duty, they will wear armbands stating that they are special constables.

Newly installed police commissioner Chris Tang is expected to officially appoint the special constables next week. Photo: May Tse

Last Friday, then police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung appointed no more than 100 prison officers as special constables.

“Depending on the police’s manpower needs and development of the social events, the government does not preclude the appointment of officers of other local disciplined services as special constables in the future to alleviate the burden of the police,” a government spokesman said in a statement last Thursday.

Hong Kong has been rocked by citywide anti-government protests since June. The unrest, which stems from the now-withdrawn extradition bill, has escalated into violence on the streets, MTR subway stations and some university campuses. Clashes between protesters – hurling bricks and petrol bombs, among other projectiles – and police using tear gas, water cannon and pepper spray are common.

Force chiefs have flagged the long hours that some of the city’s 31,000 police officers have endured during recent operations.

The Security Bureau was contacted, but declined to add any comment.

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