Hong Kong’s security chief has refused to confirm or deny reports that the police force are considering arming their officers with stun guns.
The official silence comes after an anonymously sourced report in the SCMP that the city’s police force have been comparing different models of electroshock devices — and even net guns(!) — for frontline police officers. TVB News also reported that police are considering supplying the tasers to on-duty officers for daily use, not just riot control, and that if introduced, the threshold for using the devices would be higher than that for using a baton, but lower than that for using a firearm.
However, when quizzed by pro-democracy lawmaker Roy Kwong at the Legislative Council today as to whether police were considering adding stun guns to their arsenal, Security Secretary John Lee was vague.
“We support the use of equipment that would lower the risk of injury for all sides,” he said. “Some such equipment are used by overseas police with good record of usage.”
Stun guns and tasers are currently used in places like the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and Singapore, but their use by police officers has been criticized by rights groups who have warned of health risks, such as inadvertently triggering cardiac arrest.
In the U.K. — where most officers don’t routinely carry firearms — the government have ring-fenced £10 million (US$13 million) in funding to provide tasers for 10,000 police officers in response to reports of a spate of serious assaults against officers.
Last year, the U.K. government also published a document that revealed that tasers had been deployed in around 23,000 incidents in the 12 months ending in March 2019, up by more than a third from the previous year, and double the total for all of 2016.
News that the devices could be coming to Hong Kong, meanwhile, immediately raised fears of fresh abuses of police power. Since the city’s long-running protest movement kicked off last June, authorities have received well over a thousand formal complaints of police misconduct.