Facing a volley of questions about Sunday's operations, police admitted on Monday that officers did join protesters as "different characters" but said there was no evidence to show the eye injury of a protester which had gone viral on social media, was caused by officers.
Police have admitted that several officers were disguised as a number of “different characters” among anti-extradition protesters in Causeway Bay on Sunday night, but said it was part of an “intelligence-led” operation targeting “extremely violent rioters”.
The force has come under heavy criticism after the media filmed several people dressed like protesters – in black t-shirts and wearing masks and backpacks – helped uniformed officers pin down some protesters.
The men never showed any warrant cards and refused to say whether they were police officers when confronted by journalists.
At a highly-charged press conference on Monday, deputy police commissioner, Tang Ping-keung, sought to justify the operation, adding undercover officers would not try to provoke people into doing anything radical.
“Basically it’s a decoy operation. As I said, we are targeting some extreme violent rioters. On each occasion, they would use deadly force, such as the slings, such as petrol bombs. So, our operation basically is targeting violent rioters causing deadly effect to officers,” he said.
When asked whether the officers had violated the Police General Orders for failing to show their warrant cards, Tang said officers would try their best to show their identity when making an arrest, and as for what happened on Sunday night, he said the force can review the circumstances and see if there’s any room for improvement.
Referring to the eye injury caused to a young woman during the police action in Tsim Sha Tsui, police said there’s simply no evidence to show how the injury was caused.
The picture of her bloodied face had gone viral on social media and many protesters have started wearing gauze over one eye to show their displeasure about the police action. They claimed that her eye was ruptured by a bean bag round fired by the police.
“We reviewed the footage, we made enquiry with our officers, with the location of the injury that we understand at this juncture. We do not have evidence to suggest how the injury was caused,” said an assistant police commissioner, Mak Chin-ho.
Mak also defended officers’ action after they were accused of using excessive force against protesters at Tai Koo MTR station, shooting pepper balls at close range, beating them with batons and shoving some down an escalator.
He said officers had to make “split-of-the-second” decisions amid the chaos when protesters tried to flee, adding pepper ball rounds would only cause irritation but were not “a firearm”.
As for Kwai Fong MTR station, Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah said one canister of tear gas was indeed fired into the station.
But he said that officers had taken into consideration that the MTR station had a “half-open design” instead of underground.
Officials said tear gas can be used indoors when it comes to emergency situation, but it still depends on many circumstances, such as the area of the site.
The police were also asked about a video shot by Now TV News which showed officers allegedly framing a protester by putting sticks into his backpack after he was subdued.
Li said the force is still trying to find out the whole picture.
“We don’t know what had happened before, maybe the officers have examined the rucksack before. To be honest, we have to look into the statement given by the officers and other witnesses in the vicinity. We cannot jump to the conclusion at this stage,” he said.
Asked whether the police have used expired tear gas, the police said they did use canisters that have gone past the "best before" date, which would affect the chance of them being successfully deployed.
The police denied this posed any more danger to the public, but said they will review the situation because of public concern.