Police on Tuesday confirmed that all officers will be allowed to carry extendable batons when they are off-duty, making it clear that the move is in response to the ongoing anti-government protests.
At a daily press briefing, the police said giving officers the batons will allow them to enforce the law even when they're not working.
"We have seen an increase in the intensity of violence used by protesters. Their radical acts have intensified with more dangerous and sometimes deadly weapons used," said chief superintendent John Tse.
"Such violence has extended from protest sites to transport facilities like MTR stations and Hong Kong international airport. So in case of emergencies, which are often unpredictable, there is a need for officers to be better equipped to respond to such situations. These new measures enable our officers to enforce the law and protect public safety even when they are off-duty," Tse said.
He added that officers would follow strict internal guidelines on the use of force when they take out their batons, and they will show their warrant cards whenever a situation allows.
But Democratic Party legislator James To warned that the move to equip off-duty officers with batons is a mistake.
"It will intensify the already high tensions between the community and the police and will cause further unnecessary tension and even conflict situations," To said.
Meanwhile, the police said many people are keen to help them combat the city's ongoing unrest and so the force is setting up Whatsapp channels for the public to report any "non-urgent" violence.
Senior superintendent Chan Chi-yung said they are looking for any information which can be used as part of intelligence gathering, including photos and videos.
"In the past few months, a lot of the members of the public told us that they wish to contribute ... and they are welcome to provide information and intelligence related to riots, unlawful assembly, or other forms of social unrest," Chan said.
He added that people won't have to provide any personal information when giving them tip-offs.