The general public can no longer search for the names of marine police on the Hong Kong government directory after their officers were suspected of being involved in three cases of targeting journalists during protests on Sunday night in Mong Kok.
Of the six regional headquarters of the Hong Kong Police Force, the marine regional headquarters is the only one that has omitted the names of all senior ranking police officers from the online government directory.
The directory used to show the name, title, office telephone number and email of respective government officials for the general public to search and contact. But on the marine regional headquarters section, it only showed “-” under the “Full Name” column.
According to the Ming Pao Daily, a total of 22 senior police officers across various bureaus under the marine regional headquarters did not have their names shown. The departments included the operation bureau, support bureau, marine police training, crime marine regional headquarters, marine outer waters district and marine port districts.
Patrick Hodson is the regional commander of marine regional headquarters, the Hong Kong police website showed.
It was not known when the names vanished from the directory.
In the meantime, a number of complaints have been lodged over journalists being treated badly by police on Sunday, and these could involve the marine police. Frontline reporters and photojournalists were forced to take off their face masks, were pushed, injured and some were arrested and detained by police in Mong Kok.
Journalist groups and unions have condemned police violence against the media and interference in their right to cover the protests.
The so-called “raptors” from the special tactical unit have often appeared at protests in full uniform and facemasks with no identification markings, such as numbered badges, making it hard for the general public to file complaints about misconduct.
The police force on Monday said “operational callsigns” had been assigned to frontline officers. The frontline officers will wear white identification tags with “operational callsigns” which are unique to each other.
On Sunday, two masked riot police officers told a Ming Pao Daily reporter to take off his facemask and they check his ID card on Nathan Road. One had a white card with “MART2 2/7” as his callsign.
Meanwhile, an Apple Daily reporter also had her mask torn off on Shantung Street, when an officer told the reporter that journalists were not exempted from the government’s anti-mask law. The police took her mask off from behind. That riot police callsign was “MART2.”
A freelance photojournalist was also stopped and searched, and later arrested by a group of riot police with the callsign “MART2.”
“MAR” is the code for marine regional headquarters and “T2” is the code for Tier 2 of the riot police, according to police sources.
Icarus Wong Ho-yin, a member of the Hong Kong Civil Rights Observer, criticized the omission of names on the government directory as a “big regression.”
Disclosing government officials’ contact details, including the police force, on the directory aimed to show the government’s willingness to get in contact with the general public. However, the force has now chosen to omit and hide the information, which many say is a violation of the principle of transparency and accountability.
Wong questioned if there was any misconduct among the officers whose names had been taken off the register.
The police force replied that they decided to temporary hide the contact information of some police officers on the government directory as they have been receiving nuisance telephone calls.
Members of the public could still find the contact details of the majority of senior ranking officers on the directory and the move did not affect people using the 999 emergency hotline or seeking help at police stations.
Meanwhile, a freelance journalist who staged a protest at a police briefing on Monday accused the department of doxxing, or publicly identifying, her after the incident.
Amy Ip interrupted the media briefing with her protest while some other journalists also supported her. Some of the reporters walked out when she was ejected from the room. When the briefing resumed 30 minutes later, police condemned the disruption.
On Wednesday, Ip said she was now getting messages from unknown people criticizing her for disrupting the press briefing and calling her a “corrupt reporter,” although many others wrote to support her, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
She also found a photo of her press identity card starting to circulate on the internet. She suspected the photo was leaked by a police officer.
“When I was pushed away from the press room [on Monday], someone from the police force, I don’t know who they were, asked me to show my identification again. So I just showed her and she took a picture of it immediately.
“It is the press card issued by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, and that is the only picture that has been taken in that area,” she said.
She is considering taking legal action against the force.