Police have defended the decision to pepper spray a pro-democracy lawmaker at close range during yesterday’s New Year’s Day rally on Hong Kong Island, saying that the legislator had engaged in “passive resistance.”
The comments come after video of Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui having his goggles snatched off his face twice by a police officer before being pepper sprayed at close range went viral.
According to HK01, Hui was at the junction between Hennessy Road and Jardine’s Crescent at 8pm on New Year’s Day, hours after police called off an authorized rally on Hong Kong Island which drew tens of thousands of people.
Despite police calling off the rally, some protesters still remained in the area blocking roads in Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and Central. Hui was among a crowd who stood outside the Sogo Mall in Causeway Bay.
now : Riot police just attacked Legislative Councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung and then pepper spraying citizens and journalists pic.twitter.com/rGtn2xU5xH
— Studio Incendo (@studioincendo) January 1, 2020
Hui is often seen at protest sites trying to mediate between police and protesters when things get tense during protests, and at the time of the incident was urging officers to show restraint.
In the video, the officer then backs up on him while holding the pepper spray can in front while Hui retrieves the mask from the ground and puts it back on. The officer then pulled off Hui’s mask again and Hui turned his back at him while the officer sprayed at him.
Speaking at a daily police press briefing this afternoon, senior superintendent Kong Wing-cheung said that in an effort to curb the risk of road safety and resume smooth running on the road, the police officer had chosen to pepper spray Hui after having given multiple warnings.
Kong stressed that it was a “simple” order and Hui had repeatedly refused to cooperate, and that pepper spraying lawmaker was a “more effective” approach of crowd dispersion.
When asked by a reporter at the conference whether it was appropriate for police to pull off Hui’s mask and pepper spray him despite him not posing any physical threat, Kong said the use of the pepper spray was used to “target passive resistance” and repeated the fact that Hui had refused to obey orders multiple times.