Security secretary John Lee says he is "heartbroken" to see so many young people arrested during the anti-government protests over the past year.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with RTHK, Lee said there's been a drop in the average age of people being arrested in Hong Kong, and even primary school students are being picked up by the police.
He said it's beyond imagination to see political issues "hijacked to such an extent", as well as the way that people's "moral bottom line has fallen".
The security chief also questioned whether the year-long protests have truly been related to the now-withdrawn extradition law, saying many incidents, such as attacks on people with differing political views, had nothing to do with the legislation.
And when asked if he had ever regretted pushing forward the extradition bill despite widespread opposition, he stressed he was simply doing what he believed was the right thing.