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Hong Kong's police face a crisis of their own

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on July 17, 2019 - Duration: 02:46s

Hong Kong's police face a crisis of their own

Hong Kong's vaunted police force is facing a crisis of confidence and leadership amid the city's worsening political tensions, according to serving and retired officers, politicians and security analysts.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

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Hong Kong's police face a crisis of their own

Hong Kong police once prided themselves as one of Asia's finest forces, but as the former British colony sinks deeper into chaos, the force is facing a fresh crisis of its own.

Sources have told Reuters it's struggling to cope - amid haphazard decision making and worsening morale.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REUTERS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, GREG TORODE, SAYING: "What we're hearing is that there is a great deal of concern among rank and file officers that they're not getting the political protection they deserve.

So there's concern about leadership.

There's concern that the government might throw them under the bus if things get much heavier on the streets.

There's some senior former police officers who are still in touch with the force who are telling us that they need far clearer guidelines on the use of tear gas and so on, perhaps to stop what we've seen to be increasing use of baton charges to clear small groups of protesters." This was the scene outside the police HQ last month.

Thousands rallied and blocked its entrances, angry at how the police were handling the protests.

One member of the force told Reuters these recruitment posters that were once plastered around the building have been torn down during the protests: (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REUTERS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, GREG TORODE, SAYING: "We're getting evidence that there is alarm both among the political elites, both pro-Beijing and democratic, and also the police themselves that there is a breakdown in the relations with the public.

I was out at Yau Tong on Friday (July 12) night.

And I saw - I was quite surprised to see at times after a peaceful event to, you know, the Lennon walls, they were they were putting posters up on the Lennon walls.

And then there was some incident with a suspected policeman taking photographs.

And suddenly there were lots of people and commuters even swearing and screaming at the police calling them "black dogs" and far worse.

And I just hadn't seen behavior quite like that." Marches have turned into almost daily demonstrations, and if the police struggle to maintain order, some sources tell Reuters plan B might involve China: (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REUTERS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, GREG TORODE, SAYING: "There are some foreign security analysts that are starting to look more closely at the expanding role of the People's Armed Police, paramilitary force on the mainland.

It forms an anti-riot function in a mainland Chinese context, not a free Hong Kong context.

They are a pretty robust force and I don't think that would be acceptable from what I understand, not just to the Hong Kong public but also the Hong Kong police.

It wouldn't be as provocative as using soldiers, but it would be one step in that direction." A police statement to Reuters did not respond directly to questions about officers' concerns, but said "violent protests seriously undermine the rule of law."

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