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Hong Kong Police Force

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The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF; Chinese: 香港警務處) is the primary law enforcement, investigation agency, and largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong. It was established by the British Hong Kong government on 1 May 1844. The 'Royal' title was bestowed upon the HKPF for their efforts in quelling communist riots (Hong Kong 1967 leftist riots). Royal Hong Kong Police Force (RHKP) switched back to its former name after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China.[3]

Hong Kong Police Force
Common nameHong Kong Police
MottoWe Serve with Pride and Care
Agency overview
Employees36,681 (2018)[1]
Annual budgetHK$ 20.6 billion (2019–20)[2]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionHong Kong
General nature
HeadquartersPolice Headquarters,
1 Arsenal Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Police officers32,416 (2018)[1]
Non-officers4,265 (2018)[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencySecurity Bureau
  • Operations and Support
  • Crime and Security
  • Personnel and Training
  • Management Services
  • Finance, Administration & Planning
Hong Kong Police Force
Traditional Chinese香港警務處
Simplified Chinese香港警务处
Hong Kong Police
Royal Hong Kong Police Force
Traditional Chinese皇家香港警務處
Simplified Chinese皇家香港警务处

Pursuant to the one country, two systems principle, HKPF remains independent of the jurisdiction of the of Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China, which may not interfere with Hong Kong's local law enforcement affairs. All HKPF officers are employed as civil servants and hence required to uphold their political neutrality.

Hong Kong has until recently been ranked in the top ten positions in the Global Competitiveness Report for the city's reliability of police services. The HKPF consists of some 34,000 officers, including the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force, civil servants, and its Marine Region (3,000 officers and 143 vessels as of 2009); this represents the second highest police officer-citizen ratio in the world.[4]

In 2014, the HKPF made international news headlines for using tear gas against unarmed civilians during the Umbrella Movement. In 2019, the force has once again been facing unprecedented allegations for its sheer lack of professionalism in the following areas: i) its use of excessive, disproportionate violence against civilians; ii) abuse of power by means of extra-legal arrests; iii) disregard of private property rights; iv) gross misconduct and suspected collusion with local thugs (triads/gangsters) who act as agents of the Chinese Communist Party; v) unprovoked assault of political opponents to cause grave bodily harm. (Refer to Hong Kong's anti-extradition protests and the Yuen Long attack incident in 2019.[5][6][7][8]). [9]



The historical Central Police Station (left), Western Police Station in the 1950s(right)

A police force has been serving Hong Kong since shortly after the island was established as a colony in 1841. On 30 April 1841, 12 weeks after the British landed in Hong Kong, Captain Charles Elliot established a policing authority in the new colony, empowering Captain William Caine to enforce Qing law in respect of local inhabitants and "British Police Law" for non-"natives".[10]:6 By October 1842, an organised police force (still under the direction of Caine who was also Chief Magistrate) was routinely bringing criminals before the courts for trial.[10]:17 Caine's role as head of the police force ended when its first Superintendent was appointed on 22 February 1844, Captain Haly of the 41st Madras Native Infantry.[10]:40-41 The formal establishment of the force was gazetted on 1 May 1844.[11]

The 1950s saw the commencement of Hong Kong's 40-year rise to global prominence, during which time the Hong Kong Police tackled many issues that have challenged Hong Kong's stability. Between 1949 and 1989, Hong Kong experienced several huge waves of immigration from mainland China, most notably 1958–62. In the 1970s and 1980s, large numbers of Vietnamese boat people arrived in Hong Kong, posing challenges first for marine police, secondly for officers who manned the dozens of camps in the territory and lastly for those who had to repatriate them. The force was granted the Royal Charter in 1969 for its handling of the Hong Kong 1967 riots—renaming it: the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (Traditional Chinese: 皇家香港).

The recruitment of Europeans to the force ceased in 1994, and in 1995 the Royal Hong Kong Police took responsibility for patrolling the boundary with China. Prior to 1995, the British Army had operated the border patrol. The force played a prominent role in the process of handover of sovereignty in 1997 and performs ceremonial flag-raising each anniversary.

In more recent history, the police force played a prominent role in handling the 2014 Hong Kong protests.[12][13]

Crest and flagEdit

Plate Royal Worcester Fine Bone China. 150th Anniversary of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, 1844-1994.
Emblem of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (1969─1997)

The current crest of the force was adopted in 1997 so as to retire symbols of British sovereignty. Changes to the crest included: St Edward's Crown replaced with a bauhinia flower; the official title of the force was changed from the monolingual 'Royal Hong Kong Police' to the bilingual '香港 Hong Kong Police 警察'; the badge image changed from one depicting a junk and British ship in Victoria Harbour, to one with a modern view of Hong Kong Island and the modern skyline (Queensway Government Offices, Bank of China Building, City Hall, HSBC Building, and Exchange Square).

Changes to the flag included replacing the Blue Ensign, featuring the old crest, with a single blue flag with the crest centred in the middle.


Logo of the Hong Kong Police Force

The Force is commanded by the Commissioner of Police, who is assisted by two deputy commissioners; a "Deputy Commissioner – Operations" supervises all operational matters including crime and a "Deputy Commissioner – Management" is responsible for the direction and co-ordination of force management including personnel, training, and management services.

For day-to-day policing (Operations), the Force is organised into six regions: Hong Kong Island; Kowloon East; Kowloon West; New Territories North; New Territories South; and Marine Region. The Force Headquarters (Management) is made up of five departments: Operations & Support; Crime & Security; Personnel & Training; Management Services; Finance, Administration & Planning.

Regions are largely autonomous in their day-to-day operation and management matters, and each has its own headquarters, which comprises administration and operation wings, Emergency Units, as well as traffic and criminal investigation units. Each region is divided into districts and divisions and, in a few cases, sub-divisions. Currently, there are 23 districts. The policing of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the main towns of the New Territories follows a similar pattern. Responsibility for law and order on the Mass Transit Railway, which runs through most police districts, lies with the Railway District.

Railway District based at 2 Siu Yip Street in Kwun Tong is responsible for patrols on the MTR.

Operations and Support ('A' Department)Edit

Police Force operational matters are coordinated by the Operations & Support Department. Land Operations and Support are divided into six regions, whereas marine matters are managed by the marine police—organised as one Marine Region. Each land region comprises two wings, the operations wing and support wing, and a traffic headquarters (which is part of the operations wing). The department is charged with the formulation and implementation of policies, the monitoring of activities and the efficient deployment of personnel and resources. Operations Wing coordinates counter-terrorism, internal security, anti-illegal-immigration measures, bomb disposal commitments and contingency planning for natural disasters—they are also responsible for the Police Dog Unit.

Operations WingEdit

The Operations Wing consists of three sections: The Operations Bureau, the Police Tactical Unit, and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau.

Operations Bureau comprises the Operations Division, the Counter-Terrorism and Internal Security Division, and the Key Points and Search Division which includes the Police Dog Unit. It deals mainly with the staffing of operational matters which include the formulation and dissemination of relevant Force orders, boundary security, deployment of resources, and liaison with the Hong Kong garrison. The Regional Command and Control Centre in Operations Division provides the means for exercising control over resources both at regional and district levels. It also acts as an information centre for the passage of information to the Headquarters CCC and other agencies. Equipped with the Enhanced Computer Assisted Command and Control System, each Centre receives 999 calls from the public and provides a fast and efficient service to operational officers. The Emergency Unit within the Operations Division is primarily tasked with providing quick responses to emergency situations such as 999 calls, as well as a speedy and additional presence of uniformed police on the ground to combat crime. An EU comprises a headquarters element and four platoons which operate on a three-shift basis.

The Police Tactical Unit (PTU) provides an immediate manpower reserve for use in a large-scale emergency. Unit companies are attached to all land Regions and are available for internal security, crowd control, anti-crime operations, disaster response, and riot control throughout Hong Kong. The PTU also includes the Special Duties Unit (SDU) which specializes in counter-terrorism and hostage rescue.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau is a special standalone unit within the Operations and Support Wing. Its main responsibilities are bomb-disposal work both on land and underwater. It also trains officers on explosives-related matters and inspects storage of ammunition and explosives.

A tricolour flag having the three colours of red, white, and blue which is the identification symbol of the Hong Kong Marine Region (Marine Police)

Other peripheral section included the Anti-Illegal Immigration Control Centre that is responsible for collecting intelligence and monitoring operations regarding illegal immigrants from Mainland China and Vietnam. Administration Formation implements policies laid down by the Regional Commander and is responsible for the Region's general administration. Its responsibilities include community relations, staff relations, and magistrates. Crime Formation is responsible for investigates serious and inter-district crimes. In addition, it collects, collates and evaluates intelligence on criminals and criminal activity within the Region. The Traffic Branch Headquarters covers traffic control, enforcement of traffic legislation and regulations, investigation of traffic accidents, promotion of road safety, and implementing Force and Regional traffic policies.

Support WingEdit

Each of the land regions holds its own Support Wing. A Support Wing oversees the execution and staffing of operational support matters, including the formulation of operational policies for both the regular and Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force and for updating kits and equipment. It is also responsible for the various licensing functions of the Force. The co-ordination of all public relations activities is arranged through the Police Public Relations Branch.

A support wing consists of Traffic Branch, Support Branch, and Police Public Relations Branch.

Traffic Branch Headquarters is responsible for formulating force priorities, policies and procedures on matters related to traffic, coordinating their implementation and monitoring their effects. It processes all traffic prosecutions such as the processing of traffic summons and fixed penalty tickets. It also collects and maintains traffic-related data such as monitoring the changes in traffic legislation. The Traffic Headquarters offers advice on traffic management matters, examines local traffic patterns and new major infrastructure projects. It also formulates, monitors, coordinates and evaluates road safety efforts, enforcement programmes, and traffic management schemes. It is also responsible for the administration of the Traffic Warden Corps, who assist the Police in the control of traffic and enforcement of parking offenses. It comprises the Traffic Management Bureau, Central Traffic Prosecutions Bureau, and Administration Bureau.

Support Branch is sub-divided into five divisions. Field Division is responsible for coordinating policy matters relating to firearms, equipment, uniforms and operational procedures. Projects undertaken by the Division during the year included the force-wide introduction of the OC Foam and the new, expandable baton. It had also been instrumental in developing technological solutions to a number of policing problems and is currently conducting a review of police uniforms including the cap and the shoes as well as other accouterments. General Division handles policy matters relating to station procedures; the security and management of the Police Headquarters (PHQ) complex; and diverse other duties. During the year, the Division played a major role in the streamlining of station procedures; making arrangements for the reallocation of offices and facilities; formulating a new policy for parking at the PHQ as required by the PHQ Redevelopment Project and such other duties as coordinating the Force involvement in the District Council elections. Transport Division is responsible for the management and deployment of the Force fleet of approximately 2,400 vehicles, driver establishment and the acquisition of new police vehicles. It also administers all policy matters relating to police transport requirements. Force Data and Access to Information Coordination Unit is responsible for coordinating the Force response to devising internal policy on and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and the Code on Access to Information. Police Licensing Office acts as the licensing authority for a number of licences and permits.

Police Public Relations Branch is responsible for maintaining a high level of public confidence by robustly projecting a positive image of the Force through community and media relations. It is sub-divided into two branches: Community Relations Bureau and Information and Publicity Bureau

Crime and Security ("B" Department)Edit

Crime & Security Department is responsible for the force policy regarding the investigation of crimes and matters of a security nature. Crime Wing consists of a number of operational bureaux and specialized units. The operational bureaux deal with specific areas of criminal activity whereas the specialized units provide support services to operational units in the force and deal with policy matters on various issues including child abuse, domestic violence, and witness protection. Security Wing provides VIP protection and security co-ordination, including counter-terrorism.

Crime WingEdit

Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB or O記) investigate major organised and serious crime involving all types of activities such as theft/smuggling of vehicles, human trafficking, firearms, vice, debt collection, syndicated gambling and extortion. It also investigates triad societies and their hierarchies with particular emphasis on their involvement in organized crime.

Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) is the Force's central co-ordinating body for intelligence on crime and criminality which, after analysis and assessment, is disseminated to crime investigation units as required. In addition, the CIB works closely with the OCTB and other Crime Wing bureaux in tackling triad and organised crime syndicates. To strengthen the criminal intelligence capability within the Force, the Bureau also organises related training courses and seminars for investigators. Criminal Investigation Division or CID are sub-division located in each district.

Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB) investigates serious commercial and business fraud, computer-related crimes, the forgery of monetary instruments, identity documents and payment cards, and the counterfeiting of currency and coins. It liaises very closely with international law enforcement agencies on exchange of intelligence and requests for investigation from other jurisdictions alleging criminal conduct in relation to commercial transactions.

Narcotics Bureau (NB) investigates serious drug cases such as importation and manufacture of illicit drugs and gathers intelligence in relation to major drug activities. It also conducts investigations in partnership with overseas law enforcement agencies whenever there is a Hong Kong connection to international drug trafficking. The Bureau is also responsible for financial investigations using powers granted under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance, Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance and the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance.

Support Group is made up of units which provide a technical and professional service to support criminal investigation, including Criminal Records Bureau, Identification Bureau, Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau, Witness Protection Unit, and Child Protection Policy Unit. The group also fulfills a liaison responsibility for the Forensic pathology Service and the Forensic Science Division.

Security WingEdit

The Security Wing (Chinese: 保安部; Cantonese Yale: Bóuōn bouh)[14] is responsible for a range of security-related matters including VIP protection, counter-terrorism and security co-ordination.[15]

Personnel and Training ("C" Department)Edit

Personnel WingEdit

Personnel Wing is responsible for all core human resource management functions, including recruitment, promotion, conditions of service, staff relations and welfare matters. In recent years, the Personnel Wing has also asserted the near exclusive right to adjudicate disciplinary proceedings brought against Inspectors and Junior Officers. The establishment of a dedicated unit for this purpose made it easier for senior officers in the Personnel Wing to influence outcomes.[citation needed]


Hong Kong Police College is responsible for all matters relating to training within the Hong Kong Police except internal security, Auxiliary, and Marine Police training. Training provided by the Police College includes recruit and continuation training, crime investigation training, police driver training, and weapon tactics training. The information technology training, command training, local and overseas management training, some specialist courses and periodic courses on firearms and first aid are also provided by the Police College.

Management Services ("D" Department)Edit

Information Systems WingEdit

Information Systems Wing has two branches and one bureau dealing with communications, information technology, and business services.

Communications Branch designs, acquires, examines, and maintains all force communications networks and equipment including radio, video, navigational aids, speed detection radar, mobile phones, pagers, office telephones and mini firing range equipment. Information Technology Branch is responsible for the planning, development, implementation, operation and maintenance of information technology systems. It has over 10,000 terminals installed throughout Hong Kong supporting the Force in the spheres of command and control, criminal records, crime intelligence analysis, fingerprint identification, reports to Police, human and financial resources planning and management, transport management, licensing, and e-mail. Business Services Bureau coordinates the business needs of the five departments of the Force. It consists of the Business Services Division, the e-Police Division and the Major Systems Division which acts as the System "Owner" for systems used Force-wide.

Service Quality WingEdit

Service Quality Wing is responsible for spearheading initiatives to improve services provided to force customers both external and internal. The wing comprises three branches: Performance Review, Research and Inspections, and Complaints and Internal Investigations (C&II). The Wing is responsible for implementing the force strategy on 'service quality' which aims at promoting efficiency, effectiveness and economy, whilst pursuing continuous improvement. The C&II Branch which includes the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) oversees the investigation and successful resolution of all complaints made both externally and internally against members of the force. The work of CAPO is closely monitored by the Independent Police Complaints Council to ensure that all complaints against police officers and traffic wardens are fully and impartially investigated. The findings of CAPO are then endorsed by the IPCC subject to their queries which is not rare after the enactment of IPCC Ordinance in 2009.

Finance, Administration & Planning ("E" Department)Edit

Finance Wing is responsible for the financial management, stores, and internal audit of the Force. Administration Wing is responsible for civilian staff, force establishment matters, and the management of the Police Museum. Planning and Development Branch(P&D) coordinates strategic thinking and planning on options for the operational policing of Hong Kong into the foreseeable future. It is responsible for maintaining and modernizing the police estate and for running projects for the construction of new police buildings/facilities.

Ranks and insigniaEdit

The HKPF continues to use similar ranks and insignia to those used in British police forces. Until 1997, the St Edward's Crown was used in the insignia, when it was replaced with the Bauhinia flower crest of the Hong Kong government. Pips were modified with the Bauhinia flower in the middle replacing the insignia from the Order of the Bath. The crest of the force was modified in 1997.



Junior Police Officer (Rank and File)


Salaries and fringe benefitsEdit

Police officers enjoy remuneration far exceeding median incomes in the Special Administrative Region (HK$18,000 per month in 2019[17]), the base rate for newly recruited police constables with minimal high school education being HK$24,110 per month and that for high school matriculants being HK$42,655.[18] In addition, all officers enjoy extensive housing benefits, free medical and dental benefits (including coverage of family members), with substantial vacation, sick and maternity leave allowances exceeding statutory minimums.[19]

Police Welfare FundEdit

In addition, officers and their families enjoy substantial fringe benefits through the statutorily entrenched Police Welfare Fund which has current assets exceeding HK$200 million. Attracting funds in excess of HK$50 million per annum, almost entirely donations,[20] the fund trustee, the Commissioner of Police, has unfettered freedom to choose how the funds are to be expended.[21] The Commissioner disburses the bulk of its annual expenditure in the form of cash grants to police officers and their families.[20]

A donation of HK$10 million by the pro-Beijing Friends of Hong Kong Association, which consists of National People’s Congress delegates and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference national committee, in 2019, raised concern,[22] as did a 2017 donation of HK$15 million,[23] that fringe benefits may be inadequate.[24]

Further fringe benefitsEdit

Two trust funds established by statute in 1967 add further to the benefits enjoyed by members of the force. The Police Children's Education Trust and Police Education & Welfare Trust disburse funds by way of scholarships, bursaries and grants for education expenses and to assist officers with needy children or in financial difficulty.[25] These funds were also the recipients of, in total, HK$10 million of largesse in 2017 from an undisclosed donor.[23]

Police associationsEdit

Numerous associations of serving and retired police officers have been formed over the years. Currently, they include the:

  • Superintendents' Association
  • Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association
  • Overseas Inspectors' Association
  • Junior Police Officers' Association
  • Royal Hong Kong Police Association[26]

The four serving officers' associations wield significant power, controlling half of the voting rights on the Police Force Council.[27] Government consultations with Police Force staff are formally conducted through the council[28] and the associations figure prominently at times of controversy.[29]


Police officers in summer uniform in 1954. Everything, except for the shorts, was used until 2004 (left), Hong Kong Police Pipe Band performance in Government House (right)

Current uniforms were changed in the mid 2000s. The older khaki uniforms were used for many decades. Hong Kong Police Force uniform currently comprises:

Uniform Branch: Dark navy blue jacket with the words 'Police', in English and Chinese, in reflective white tape, on the front left breast and back. Light blue shirts are worn by most officers, whilst white shirts are worn by senior officers. Dark blue cargo trousers and black caps are worn by all officers.

Tactical Units: these uniforms are identical to those of the Uniform Branch officers, although berets are worn rather than caps and trousers are tucked into boots. Riot helmets are worn for riot control.

Traffic branch: Reflective yellow jacket and navy blue riding trousers. In warmer weather, reflective vests with white sleeves are an alternative.

From the return of HKPF, all patrol officers and inspectors had their whistle taken off. The same summer uniform and winter uniform was worn until 2005.

Senior Constable, Sergeant and Station Sergeant ranks had their ranks moved to their shoulder slides.

Ceremonial uniformEdit

They are white or dark tunic. Sword design was based on 1897 pattern British infantry officer's sword and used for formal occasions such as parade out or Legal Opening Day. They are fitted with a black whistle on the front right pocket and insignia on the collar for commissioned officers. A Sam Browne belt is worn too.

Retired uniformsEdit

Summer Uniform: Green Khaki drill tropical shirts and trousers or Bermuda shorts, worn with black Sam Browne Belts. Females wore summer beige shirts with skirts. This uniform was worn until about 2005 when the force switched to a slightly modernized version of the Winter Uniform, to be worn all year round. The Green uniform can be seen in some of the older Hong Kong and Hollywood movies.

Winter Uniform: Cornflower blue (or white, for commissioned officers) shirts with necktie, worn under a navy blue tunic and Sam Browne Belt, with navy blue uniform trousers. Tunic may be removed under warmer weather.

Until 1998, all officers wore a whistle lanyard over the left shoulder running under the epaulet with the double cord attached to a whistle tucked in to the left breast tunic pocket. Uniform colour was black, however officers who had received a Commissioner of Police Commendation, or HE Governor's Commendation, were issued with and could wear a plaited black, yellow and red (Force colours) lanyard (for CP's Commendation) or red for Governor's. [30][31][32]


Police cars on a road in Central
HKPF Police Patrol Boat

Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are white, with a blue and red 3M retroreflective stripe around on the sides of the vehicle with wording "警 Police 察" in white, the only exception being the armoured personnel carriers specially designed for the Police Tactical Unit, which are wholly dark blue and with wording "警 Police 察" on a light blue background in white on the sides of the vehicle. Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are equipped with both red and blue emergency vehicle lighting. The vehicles which are assigned to airport duties have additional yellow emergency vehicle lighting. All police vehicles are government property and so bear licence plates starting with "AM".

Since 2008, the Hong Kong Police Force have brought in the use of Battenburg markings for new police vehicles of the Traffic Branch Headquarters. In addition, these new vehicles show the Force crest on the front part of the vehicle, which the Force has not used in the design of new vehicles for the last two decades.

The Hong Kong Police Force have unmarked police vehicles to catch and arrest criminals in the act; such vehicles include the discreet and high performance BMW M5 cars, among other types. Also, the Force operate unmarked police vehicles for surveillance to gather evidence of any criminal offence. In addition, for security purposes, armoured cars specially designed for the VIP Protection Unit (VIPPU) and bulletproof tactical police vehicles specially designed for the Special Duties Unit have no markings also.

The Hong Kong Police Force has ordered 10 new electric scooters for their officers to help reduce pollution in central Hong Kong. Emergency Unit, Police Tactical Unit, and Traffic Police have identification markings on the back of the car (no motorcycles of Traffic Police), for example, PTUD 1/3. This means PTU D Team 1st Team 3rd car. EU is like this: EUKW 23. EU means Emergency Unit, KW means Kowloon West, and 23 means the 23rd car of the Kowloon Emergency Unit. Traffic Police cars include TKW 2. T means Traffic Police, KW means Kowloon West, and 2 means the second car of the Kowloon West Traffic Unit. Until 2007, EU, PTU, and TP vehicles have identification markings like this (1/3 PTUD, 23 EUKW, 2 TKW).[33]



Model Service Details
Motorola scanner Standard police scanner for HKPF. Used by PTU, EU, PSU, RPT and BPU. MTP750 with receiver, MTM700, MTM800 for Police Vehicles and EU Vehicles
Flashlight Used by all units as light options.
Handcuffs British made models, used by all units as restrains.
Sabre Red Pepper Spray Mk. 3 and Mk. 9 models, used by all units as less than lethal options.
Expandable Baton 18-inch models by Phoenix and 21-inch models by ASP Inc., used by all units as less than lethal options.
Speedloader Used by officers armed with revolvers. 12 rounds of ammunition are issued.
Spare magazine Used by officers armed with semi-automatic pistols. Various number of rounds are issued based on the unit.
Swiss Army knife Used by PTU, EU, PSU, RPT, BPU and ASU
Police Log Book Used by all patrolling units
Hatch BNG190 Gloves Used by all units
Mark 3 Knife Used by SDU and CTRU.
First Aid Kit Used by all units as first aid options.
Cell Phone Used by all units as communication options.
Tear Gas Used by PTU for riot control.

Notable personnelEdit

  • William Caine: the head of pre-Hong Kong Police Force from 1841 to 1844.
  • Lee Rock: A Chief Inspector from 1949 to 1974, who was a notable corrupt officer who got tens of millions during his time at the Force.
  • Nick Cheung: a Hong Kong actor and director. He was a former Royal Hong Kong Police officer. A movie was made about him in 1989 about his youth at the Royal Hong Kong Police Cadet School.
  • Li Kwan-ha: the first ethnic Chinese to serve as the Commissioner of Police in Hong Kong from 1989 to 1994.
  • Eddie Hui: the last Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police from 1994–1997, and the first Commissioner of Hong Kong Police from 1 July 1997 to 1 January 2001.
  • Stephen Lo: the current Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police.
  • Joe Ma: a Hong Kong TVB actor. He was a member of the elite VIP Protection Unit(G4) before he joined the Hong Kong entertainment industry in 1993.


Hong Kong police officers stop and check a vehicle.

Post-war struggle with corruption, reform and rising reputation as "Asia's Finest"Edit

Hong Kong faced an economic slump after the end of the Second World War in 1945.[34] Trade was slow, mainland China was experiencing a civil war and thousands of Chinese refugees flooded the British colony to escape the Chinese communist revolution.[35] Police management was under resourced being reliant on its staff sergeants (senior non-commissioned officers), who wielded significant power and influence within their districts, ruling their subordinates with an iron fist.[36]

It was then that corruption started to tarnish the reputation of the Hong Kong Police. Officers were reputedly poorly paid in comparison with other civil servants and with others in society in general.[36] Some officers accepted bribes to turn a blind eye towards syndicated vice, drugs and illegal gambling activities. During the 1950s and 1960s, syndicated criminals paid regular sums of money to the staff sergeants who, in turn, used couriers and book keepers to share their ill-gotten gains amongst the officers and constables of their respective police districts.[37]

This became an increasing concern for the colonial government but corruption was overshadowed by the leftist violence and riots that beset Hong Kong in 1967, threatening the stability and very existence of the British colony. In 1969, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II honoured the Force with the 'Royal' title to recognize its loyalty, dedication and efforts to restore law and order during the 1967 disturbances and Princess Alexandra became its Commandant General. The Force thus changed its name to the Royal Hong Kong Police.[36]

Although not confined to the police but tarnishing other government departments and the wider business community as well, police corruption re-emerged as a major concern in the early 1970s. The Commissioner of Police, Charles Sutcliffe, ordered investigations to break the culture of corruption and this caused forty-odd Chinese officers to flee Hong Kong with more than HK$80 million cash (about HK$2 million each).[37][38] Moreover, in 1973, a highly decorated officer, Chief Superintendent Peter Godber, became embroiled in a corruption scandal when Sutcliffe found him to have amassed HK$4.3 million in assets. Godber fled the colony after learning of his intended arrest, prompting a public outcry. These events precipitated the formation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1974, which the government gave wide-ranging powers to investigate and bring to justice corrupt elements in Hong Kong society.[39]

The Hong Kong Police’s official history cites poor pay as one of the primary factors that motivated officers to engage in corruption. This may be true but cannot account for the nature and scale of this activity.[36] Indeed, the eminent historian and Southeast Asia expert, Professor Alfred McCoy classified the severity of the Royal Hong Kong Police’s corruption problem of that time as “level 5” on a five-point rating scale. He describing the phenomenon as involving “a syndication of all organized crime activity by a tightly-structured group of senior police officers.” McCoy asserts, “Unlike the individual variety of police criminality that occurs at stage four, stage-five corruption is highly formalized and often involves a strict system of profit-sharing according to rank.”[37]

After Godber's extradition from the UK and subsequent trial and conviction in Hong Kong, the ICAC focused its efforts on the police. Investigators mounted a series of raids on police stations throughout the colony, sometimes bringing lorry loads of officers to ICAC offices for questioning. Police discontent with this situation peaked in 1977 and the government offered an amnesty to all serving officers after junior police officers demonstrated at the Police Headquarters in Wanchai and the ICAC offices near Admiralty.[40]

Following the amnesty, the police force re-organised itself, introducing new layers of management, police procedures and supervisory accountability to deter and detect corrupt elements within its ranks. The government also greatly improved police remuneration and overhauled the terms and conditions of their service—arguably removing the incentive for corruption.[41]

Resulting from the reforms of 1979 and the early 1980s, the Royal Hong Kong Police regained its good name and reputation, becoming known as Asia's Finest.[42] It developed a strong track record for fighting crime, and enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most professional, efficient, honest and impartial police forces in the Asia Pacific region.[43][44] The force enjoyed the esteem and confidence of the public it served, as demonstrated by the University of Hong Kong opinion polls between 1997 and 2007. Its popularity peaked in 2007 with a net approval rating of 79 percentage points.[45]

2010s - Decline after repeated confrontation with democratic movementsEdit

By December 2014, public satisfaction with the police had declined to 56% (from 62.3% five months earlier); its net satisfaction rate plunged to a record low of 29%, the lowest level since 1997 and lower than that of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison. Pollsters drew the conclusion that the sharp decline was due to policing actions during the 2014 protests, and said that to repair its reputation, the police would need to "strengthen its professionalism in executing its duties, and also its affection and care for the society. It should not lean towards any political force, nor resort to improper means, just let political problems be resolved in political ways".[46]

Negative sentiment gained momentum, however, as police became ever more determined in confrontations with pro-democracy protesters. Net positive satisfaction returned to a near record low of only 22% in June 2019.[47] On 21 June 2019, soon after the Extradition Bill protests, Amnesty International published a report on the unlawful use of force by the force, including the dangerous use of rubber bullets, officers beating protesters who did not resist, aggressive tactics used by police to obstruct journalists on site and the misuse of tear gas.[48]


Andy Tsang and beyondEdit

Although the media had often dubbed it "Asia's Finest", its reputation took a serious drubbing under the leadership of the hawkish Andy Tsang, Commissioner from 2011 to 2015.[49] As a result of Tsang's unpopular decisions and comments, the public nicknamed him "Andy the Vulture".[43] The approval rating of the police declined markedly from mid-2012, and the record low net approval of 21 percentage points was set in early 2015.[45]

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tsang was responsible for the politicisation of the police during his tenure, and aligning policing objectives with the state rather than the interests of justice.[49] Police failure to respond to assaults against certain groups, heavy-handed treatment of protesters during the "Umbrella Revolution",[43] deployment of riot police and 87 instances of tear gas use against unarmed students, caused disquiet among the public and senior police staffers alike.[43][50] The police were seen to have become a political tool in support of a governance system that is overseeing the replacement of rule of law with "rule by law" as defined by the CCP.[44][49][51][52][53] Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers' Union, commented that "the police [during the Umbrella Revolution] have made themselves enemy of the people", literally overnight.[51]

Incidents in 2010sEdit

Sexual assaultEdit

Since 2014, there have been reports of police officers involved in sexual assaults on female victims. In one high-profile case involving an officer with six years' service molesting a female within Police Headquarters toilet, the officer was convicted of indecent assault and abuse of power.[54][55] There had been an incident in 2008, when a woman was raped inside Mong Kok police station by a policeman.[56]

2014 Umbrella Movement police brutalityEdit

External video
  Seven plainclothes policemen assaulting a handcuffed protester on 15 November

Police were criticised for violently attacking protesters in October 2014,[57] as well as for allegedly colluding with triads and thugs against peaceful protesters.[52][58][59]

Seven officers were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in early 2017, after a video tape surfaced of them beating a handcuffed protester in police custody on 15 October 2014, sparking outrage and accusations of police brutality.[60][61][62][63] The commissioner of police, pro-Beijing politicians, and thousands of members of the police unions publicly supported the convicted officers.[64][65]

Failure to prosecute a police superintendent for assaultEdit

The Hong Kong Police came under fire for failing to charge police superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai, now retired, who was filmed hitting civilians with a police baton when uniformed officers were directing a line of passers-by to move along after a protest in Mong Kok on 26 November 2014.[66] The day before Chu was due to retire in July 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) established by a majority decision that a complaint against Chu was justified. The internal Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) disagreed and sought legal advice from the Department of Justice.[67] Chu was eventually charged, convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.[68]

Misuse of care and protection ordersEdit

In December 2014, the police caused concern when they applied for Care and Protection Orders (CPO) for two youths, one of whom was arrested during the protests.[69] Police arrested one 14-year-old male for contempt of court during the clearance of Mong Kok and applied for a CPO.[69][70] The CPO was cancelled four weeks later when the Department of Justice decided that they would not prosecute.[69]

In a second case, a 14-year-old female who drew a chalk flower onto the Lennon Wall on 23 December 2014 was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, detained by police for 17 hours, and then held against her will in a children's home for 20 days, but was never charged with any crime.[71] A magistrate decided in favour of a CPO pursuant to a police application, deeming it "safer." The incident created uproar as she was taken away from her hearing-impaired father, and was unable to go to school.[72][73][74] On 19 January, another magistrate rescinded the protection order for "Chalk Girl" (粉筆少女) after reviewing a report from a social worker.[75] The handling of the situation by the police raised concerns, as there was no explanation as to why the police failed to locate and consult a social worker before applying for the order in accordance with proper procedures.[76] The controversy gained international attention, and The Guardian produced a short documentary film, titled "The Infamous Chalk Girl" which was released in 2017.[77][78] Use of the CPO device against minors involved in the Umbrella Movement was seen as "white terror" to deter young people from protesting and exercising free speech.[69]

Setup and framing of innocent autistic suspectEdit

In May 2015, a man was arrested, detained from 2–4 May for in excess of 48 hours and wrongfully accused of murder.[79] The man was autistic, and the police failure to handle such a case sparked controversy.[79][80] According to the police, the suspect made a written confession of an assault that contradicted severely with statements obtained whilst interviewed with family members. A nursing home later offered the suspect an alibi, corroborated with video evidence, that the man could not have been at the alleged crime scene.[80] Civil rights activists condemned the incident which traumatised a vulnerable individual, and criticised the police procedures including not proposing legal representation, lengthy detention, an methods for obtaining a bogus confession. The police chief expressed "regret" but refused to make an apology.[80] Also in May 2015, police procedures for conducting identity parades attracted controversy when suspects in an assault case on television reporters were allowed to wear shower caps and face masks during an identity parade, ostensibly to cover distinctive features, leading to the police abandoning the case due to insufficient evidence. The police stance was confirmed by the new Chief Commissioner.[81][82]


In mid-September, media reported that the police had made material deletions from its website concerning "police history", in particular, the political cause and the identity of the groups responsible for the 1967 riots. Mention of communists and Maoists were expunged: for example, "Bombs were made in classrooms of left-wing schools and planted indiscriminately on the streets" became "Bombs were planted indiscriminately on the streets"; the fragment "waving aloft the Little Red Book and shouting slogans" disappeared, and an entire sentence criticising the hypocrisy of wealthy pro-China businessmen, the so-called "red fat cats" was deleted.[83][84] The editing gave rise to criticisms that it was being sanitised, to make it appear that the British colonial government, rather than leftists, were responsible. Stephen Lo, the new Commissioner of Police, said the content change of the official website was to simplify it for easier reading; Lo denied that there were any political motives, but his denials left critics unconvinced.[84][85]

In October 2015 the Police Public Relations Bureau launched a Facebook page in a bid to improve its public image. The page was immediately inundated with tens of thousands of critical comments, many asking why the seven officers who beat the handcuffed protester a year earlier had not been arrested. In response, the police held a press conference and warned of "criminal consequences" for online behaviour.[86]

Stolen bail money incidentEdit

A police sergeant at the Wan Chai Police Station allegedly absconded on 1 May 2016 with HK$1.07 million (US$140,000) in bail funds. A man remanded on bail who reported to the station on 25 May claimed that an officer told him that the police could not be held liable for the missing money, and made him sign a waiver of claims in relation to the bail money he had posted previously.[66][87] Although police public relations quickly apologised for the "misunderstanding" that had occurred at the Wan Chai station, media criticised top management for being equivocal and evasive about the accountability of the station and also about whether the police officers responsible for the waiver response would be disciplined.[66]

2019 anti-extradition bill clashesEdit

In the anti-extradition bill protests of June 2019, police were criticised for using excessive force.[88] On 12 June, they had fired 150 tear gas rounds, 20 beanbag shots, several rubber bullets and smoke bombs on protesters outside the Legislative Council complex.[89] The New York Times released a video essay that shows tear gas was deployed as an "offensive weapon" and that in several cases, unarmed protesters were beaten and dragged by police commanders.[90] Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo dismissed those complaints, stating that 22 officers were hurt during the protest and suitable force was used.[91]

On 21 June, 2019, Amnesty International examined various footages and verified that the Hong Kong police had used excessive force in 14 incidents.[92] They published a report, documenting the use of excessive force, and stated that there were numerous violations of international law regarding use of force by Hong Kong police officers against unarmed civilians.[93]

On the same day, an anti-police protest was held and the police headquarter was surrounded by protesters, the police called 5 ambulances for 13 people at 9:33 pm, the medical service shown up almost two hours later. The police claimed that the protesters has delayed the medical assistance, yet the medics were unlock outside the gate for tens of minutes when police were searching for a way to unlock the gate.[94][95][96] Reports showed that the medics were instructed by the police not to walk to the police headquarter, the Director of Fire Services instructed the medics at 11pm to walk to the police headquarter, the medics arrived shortly after that. The incident raised controversies that whether the police has abused the ambulance services to plot that protesters has caused delay in ambulance services just to let the public to feel pity to them.[97][98]

On 23 June, 2019, a press conference was jointly held by representatives from the Medical, Health Services, and Legal sectors. 82 election committees from the Medical, Health Services, and Legal function constituencies signed a joint declaration and urged the police to stop obstructing hospital treatments and respect the patient confidentiality. The declaration claimed that the police has arrested five people seeking public hospital treatment and also verbally threatened some nurses to try to get patient details.[99]

Throughout the period, there are numerous cases where the police officers on shift did not show their warrant cards despite it is a legal requirement for them to do so.[100] There are also numerous cases that the police officers refused to show the warrant card when requested by the press or citizens, or simply ignored the requests.[101][102][103][104] The Special Tactical Squad deployed on 12 June did not show the police ID number as the uniform design did not allow the ID number be displayed.[105] The police refused to provide the ID number for the squad as "it would hinder the investigation of crimes and affect public safety".[106] This prevented the general public from complaining the police officers and raised controversies.[107] The police spokesperson stated that police is not required to wear the warrant card all the time;[108] on the other hand, the official police television programme "Police Report", stated the opposite.[109]

On 30 June 2019, a police supporting campaign were held in Tamar Park. There were video recordings showing respectively, (1) a legislative council member being assaulted by a small group of police supporters,[110] an anti-extradition bill protester being pushed to the ground and beaten by a group of police supporters,[111] the police was present and did not arrest anyone on the spot. There were a video claiming that after a police supporter assaulted a protester, the police released the police supporter immediately without taking any record, but detained the protester for 15 minutes, not allowed to leave unless the protester drop the charge. [112]

On 8 July 2019, more controversies of police behaviour arose, (1) a man, claimed police officer who stood in a group of police officers, equipped with police helmet and shield declaring police does not need to show the warrant card while performing their duties;[113] (2) a police officer ask protesters to brawl with him[114]; (3) On a street without protesters, Charged at the press and legislative council members in the opposition party, knocked down a journalist and almost caused a human stampede incident.[115] Following these incidents, lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting requested an independent investigation into police conduct, called for a review of video that may show the use of excessive force, and stated that failure to have warrant cards visibly displayed may be a violation of the law.[116]

Yuen Long attack incidentEdit

On 21 July 2019, triad gang members dressed in white indiscriminately assaulted commuters in the Yuen Long Station. A legislative member, journalists, and even passersby were injured. Videos showed (1) a police squad marching into the station as the gang members dressed in white left yet they did not approach them; (2) several gang members equipped with batons spoke with two police officers, who did not perform ID checks nor arrest them; (3) a police commander, accompanied by a squad of police, had discussions with suspected triad gang members.[citation needed] Also when the police commander answered to some news reporters why they late , he explained "he didn't look at his watch".

The News conference of Police said The police force arrived at the scene only 39 minutes late , but not 40 minutes. This answer is difficult for the public to accept why no any police officers to stop this attack, so the public called this period of this attack incident as "no police time".

Allegations against police in the Reclaim protestsEdit

On 6 July 2019, Reclaim Tuen Mun Park protest was held. Local citizens claimed that there were groups of singers, mostly female in middle-ages in revealing dresses, and viewers, mostly male in old-ages, has turned the Tuen Mun Park into a red-light district. Allegations against the groups of singers and viewers included singing sound loudly and causing nuisance, dancing in a salacious manner that the viewers often provide generous tips to the singers.

On 6 July 2019, some activists tried to eliminate groups of singers and viewers away from the park. The police was accused of selective enforcement. A viewer who assaulted an activist were protected by the police and sent to a taxi, without a proper investigation of the confrontation. A group of police held an activist on the ground, pulled off his surgical mask and took photos of his face and recorded the ID without a solid reason. Around 50 police officers surround a toilet for hours and in the process refused to let a woman suffered from long-term illness to use the toilet because one the singers was in it.[117][118]

On 13 July 2019, in the Reclaim Sheung Shui protest, police was accused of chasing an innocent man and made him jumped off a bridge in panic, there was a number of allegations of excessive force and abuse of power, including police refusing to show their ID number.[119][120]

On 14 July 2019, in the Reclaim Sha Tin protest, police blocked multiple exit route and only leave a route for the protester to go in a Shopping mall in Sha Tin, and the police blocked the MTR station and trapped protesters and bystanders in the Shopping Mall. Police then stormed the shopping mall, and assaulted the citizens inside, protesters and bystanders alike. It is claimed that police intentionally applied excessive force that would cause permanently injuries to protesters, including bending the wrist of an unconscious detainee by 180 degree, poking the eyeball of a protester. [121][122]

In popular cultureEdit

The Hong Kong Police Force and its previous incarnation have been the subject of many films and television shows, including the locally produced Police Story film series, The Criminal Investigator, Infernal Affairs film series, Cold War, and OCTB. English language films featuring the HKPF include Rush Hour.

The Hong Kong Police Force and SDU have also appeared in popular video game series “Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege”, and "Sleeping Dogs", among others.


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  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hong Kong – The Facts, published by the Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

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Preceded by
First in Order of Precedence
Hong Kong Police Force Succeeded by
Independent Commission Against Corruption