For discussion
on 11 November 1996

LegCo Panel on Security
Policy on the handling of petitioners
in public areas and private premises


This paper sets out the legal basis of the Police’s action in the handling of petitioners in recent incidents involving consulate premises and the general practice of the Police in handling petitioners in public areas and private premises.amendments to Part III sections 6(a) and 7(2)(b) Ordinance (Cap 245).

Legal basis of Police action

2. The Hong Kong Government is obliged to enforce the inviolability of consular premises in Hong Kong in accordance with Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Accordingly, the Police are under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity and to take such steps as they judge may be necessary for that purpose under the Police Force Ordinance and the Common Law.

General policy in the handling of petitioners

3. Hong Kong is a free and open society where freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed by law, namely, Articles 16 and 17 of the Bill of Rights Ordinance (BORO). At the same time, both Articles permit restrictions of these rights which are necessary in the interests of, among other things, public safety or public order. The community would expect protestors to abide by the law and well established rules in order that these activities could take place in a peaceful and orderly manner.

4. The Police have a statutory duty to preserve public safety and order. It is therefore necessary for Police to take appropriate action before or during public meetings or processions. In doing so, the Police always seek to strike a balance between the rights of participants to express their views and the need to prevent possible breach of the peace and ensure that no danger or inconvenience is caused to others. The Police would consider what appropriate action should be taken having regard to the individual circumstances of each case. Furthermore, Police officers are trained and instructed to use maximum restraint and minimum force in all circumstances, including the handling of demonstrators.

5. As regards the handling of petitioners/demonstrators in private premises, the Police do not normally interfere with such activities except where it would be necessary for Police to take action in the interest of public order or safety, or to carry out their statutory duties.

Security Branch
November 1996

Last Updated on 21 August 1998