Those who complained that the Hong Kong government’s use of tear gas against protestors last year was heavy handed might be surprised to know how our former colonisers would have reacted in a similar situation…. in theory.
VICE claims to have uncovered a “secret army file” from the UK National Archives disclosing the British Army’s brutal plans for handling potential unrest in Hong Kong during the 1980s.
Despite the UK government proffering vague concern about the tear gas used on pro-democracy crowds in Hong Kong in September last year, the secret files suggest the British Army would have used actual (not rubber) bullets if faced with a similar situation 30 years ago.
So much for thinking everything would be better under the British!
The file was apparently compiled by military officials from the Porton Down chemical weapons establishment in Wiltshire, who visited Hong Kong in 1981. In the paper, the party compared crowd control plans with tactics that had been used in Northern Ireland to quell the riots that broke out following the death of 10 Irish republican prisoners on hunger strike.
Security forces fired a record 29,695 rubber bullets in Northern Ireland in 1981, and killed seven people between April and August. Apparently, however, the “secret army file” called on soldiers to be “very much more aggressive than the present tactics in Ulster”, if faced with rioters in Hong Kong.
Major Duncan Briggs, of 6 Gurkha Regiment, supposedly told visitors from Porton Down that his men would skip the less lethal method of tear gas and go straight from batons, to rubber bullets, and finally live fire if trouble broke out.
VICE claims that Briggs actually deemed tear gas a “reserved option”, confirming that “small arms fire would be directed into the crowd for lethal effect”.
Daniel Holder, the deputy director of a leading human rights NGO in Belfast, told VICE that “plastic bullets were used by the security forces in Northern Ireland in public order situations with deadly effect, especially for children.”
Holder concludes by saying that “’very much more aggressive’ responses, including the use of live ammunition, were deemed appropriate for the people of Hong Kong.”
The Ministry of Defence refused to comment on the Hong Kong document, labelling it “theoretical speculation.”