Civil Rights Observer: Police “kettling” protesters inconsistent with aim to disperse the crowd

Civil Rights Observer: Police “kettling” protesters inconsistent with aim to disperse the crowd

Human rights group Civil Rights Observer issued a statement this morning (15th July) in relations to police clashes with the crowd in Shatin last night (14th July), saying that the cops in choosing to have protesters completely surrounded created a “kettling* effect” that was inconsistent with the goal of dispersing the crowd, bringing about an adverse effect that resulted in serious confrontations.

Civil Rights Observer’s declaration stated that while trying to disperse the crowd, the police should not have employed the tactic of completely surround protesters; instead, they should have provided clear instructions, a way for the crowd to leave the area and reasonable amount of time for them to do so. Otherwise, according to experience from other places around the world, containment meant that protesters would have no way to leave, often generating a “kettling effect” that would end up in serious clashes between the police and protesters, thus creating an adverse effect which would be inconsistent with the aim of trying to disperse the crowd.

In their recount of the night in question, Civil Rights Observer pointed out that during their clear-out operation, the police had closed off multiple exit points by sealing off roads and shopping arcades surrounding New Town Plaza such as Shatin Rural Committee Road (just outside of Lek Yuen Plaza), Sand Martin Bridge and Tam Kon Po Street, all the while pushing back towards New Town Plaza from Shatin MTR station at Exit A. During this time, MTR’s East Rail Line suspended services at Shatin Station on separate occasions as well. Therefore, the cops in effect had setup for containing protesters rather than dispersing them.

Civil Rights Observer also pointed out that they had been aware of the problem of plain-clothed police not adequately displaying their warrant cards, something that had become an emotional source of anger and resentment amongst the citizenry and could be part of the reason why certain police officers were gravely injured yesterday. It advised that the police management needs to deal with this problem directly and make sure that all plain-clothed cops on the front line strictly adhere to the Police General Orders in displaying their warrant cards, so that no more unnecessary clashes between police and the general public would occur. The human rights group also feels that the government in not responding to their citizens’ demands, and allowing confrontations to spread and escalate, is an extremely irresponsible act.

Translator’s note: kettling refers to a strategy whereby police officers close in on a crowd and confine them in a small area without providing any exit route.