Hong Kong police body cameras spark fears

In a first for Asia, Hong Kong police said Thursday they will trial the use of video cameras attached to their uniforms to film exchanges with the public, despite concerns from human rights groups.

The southern Chinese city's police force said officers would start to wear the small cameras by the end of the year.

Similar devices have been deployed by police in the United Kingdom and United States, while police in the Australian state of Victoria are proceeding with a trial this month.

"We will try out the body camera scheme by end of this year," a Hong Kong police spokeswoman told AFP.

She played down criticism from human rights activists that the use of body cameras was a step toward the creation of a police state in the former British colony, which reverted to mainland rule in 1997.

"We are not targeting anyone at any public rallies but of course it could be a useful device for the police to deal with those who disturb public law and order at these rallies," she said.

The devices would be used by trained and clearly identified police officers, in order to enhance evidence gathering and public security, officials said.

But Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said filming random interactions with the public could breach Hong Kongers' "constitutional right to privacy" and threaten the city's cherished freedoms.

He said there were no laws regulating the use of such cameras, fuelling fears that they would help security forces keep an eye on political activists opposed to mainland rule.

"It will create a climate of fear and turn the city into a police state with Big Brother watching us all the time," Law told AFP.

Pro-democracy activist Richard Tsoi said the threat of being filmed at protests would deter people from participating.

"People are afraid of being filmed... They don't know how the footage will be used and how it will be preserved," the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said.

The police want to buy about 7,000 of the British-made cameras, according to the South China Morning Post. The footage will not be kept for more than 30 days unless it is needed as evidence in court, the daily said.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous territory with a mini-constitution that guarantees civil liberties including free speech, a free press and the right to protest.

As such, the city of seven million people plays host to dissidents who could face arrest elsewhere in China, and is the scene of regular political rallies and pro-democracy protests.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Hong Kong on July 1 to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover, amid widespread fears that Beijing wants to roll back the territory's freedoms.

In Australia, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said that in "difficult or dangerous situations" body cameras helped prove cases.

But he acknowledged that he had concerns about their use.

"I'm not that enamoured with the idea of police walking down the street and talking to their local members of the community wearing a camera. I don't think that's helpful to anyone," he told reporters last month.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines
    US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others. Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the …

  • Another source of SAF execution video identified
    Another source of SAF execution video identified

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still tracing the source of the video showing one of the wounded police commandos being finished off by Muslim rebels during the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A source from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they have identified two persons who first uploaded the video that went viral over social networking sites. The supposed source of the video was elusive and claimed that somebody just placed it on an external drive. The …

  • Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao has always believed he can do what 47 other fighters before him have failed to do — beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring. …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • A trying Heat season now hitting the stretch run
    A trying Heat season now hitting the stretch run

    MIAMI (AP) — To say the Miami Heat have been presented with a new problem every day since last season ended, that would be an exaggeration. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options