The treatment of a young student by Hong Kong police, believed to have autism, has caused concern over whether there is sufficient training for officers in dealing with children with special needs.
The student in question was walking along the intersection of Yu Chau Street and Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po on Tuesday afternoon when he knocked over an anti-Falun Gong vertical banner on the street, according to an eyewitness who gave his name to Apple Daily as Jacky.
A middle-aged woman then shouted “theft,” attracting the attention of two policemen who were passing by. The student attempted to leave, but the police stopped him and told him not to move. The woman then accused the boy of “stealing her banner.”
The policemen tried to calm the student, but as a crowd gathered around them, the student again tried to walk away. The boy is suspected to suffer from autism and could be heard screaming in a video provided to Apple Daily.
The police said, after an investigation, that no theft was involved and the individual who made the report will not pursue the matter. The police also said that it conducts fair investigations based on established procedures and in accordance with the situation. Evidence is collected in every case.
In a statement published on Wednesday, Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai strongly condemned the incident, demanding that the police explain their actions and apologise to the student and his family. Cheng said that the case clearly involved “use of excessive force.”
Cheng said that according to media footage, the frontline police “did not actively calm down the student, nor were they capable of communicating with the student, instead they used force and caused him to grow even more frightened and out of control.”
“Such was the [treatment] of a student — the handling of sudden incidents by frontline police and their ability to maintain public order deserves the scrutiny and criticism of the public.”
Pro-democracy lawmaker Fernando Cheung also expressed hope that the police would increase training so officers could identify children with special needs and act appropriately.