District councilors questioned the MTR in a meeting Thursday over their guidelines on the use of excessive force after a station officer knelt on the neck of an allegedly uncooperative passenger last month.
The incident happened on April 16, when MTR staff stopped a man who was suspected of using a discounted Octopus card that he is not authorized to hold.
When the man refused to have his card checked, staff subdued the man by pressing him against the floor. In a photo, the MTR officer appeared to kneel on his neck as he struggled.
“Are you enforcing the law for the police?” District councillor Owan Li asked MTR representative Jacky Chan in the meeting.
The district councillors also requested that the MTR t0 amend its by-laws, which currently authorizes its employees to detain any person whom they reasonably suspect of breaching the regulations until police arrive.
According to local media, the man resisted aggressively when staff approached him. He pushed, scratched and bit them in an attempt to escape, injuring five officers.
He was reportedly in possession of a mental health medical record document and an Octopus card for persons with disabilities, meaning he is eligible to enjoy the MTR transportation fee discount according to the law.
Chan admitted that staff did not handle the case wisely, giving the public an “unideal impression.”
He reiterated that the staff should call police and “avoid physical contact” when they encounter similar situations.
Coconuts has reached out to MTR for comment but has not received a response at the time of writing.
The incident also raised concerns over the risks of kneeling on one’s neck during a confrontation. The action is seen as a controversial and potentially deadly technique used in law enforcement.
Last May, a man allegedly died in police custody after he refused to cooperate. In a video, a police officer is seen using his knee to press against his neck as he lays on the ground without moving. Police defended the incident and said officers were using “appropriate force” to detain him.
In the US, the Black Lives Matter movement was sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.