A woman who reportedly asked for the personal information of students attending this year’s Tiananmen vigil was a plainclothes police officer, Secretary for Security John Lee has confirmed.
Answering a question at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Lee said that the woman referred to in a media report was a plainclothes police officer deployed to Victoria Park on June 4. He gave no further information on her identity or objective.
“The police’s operational details on that day form part of the operational deployment and it is inappropriate for me to disclose,” Lee said.
Before the vigil started, an HK01 reporter was interviewing three high-school students at Victoria Park when they were interrupted by a woman. She asked the students which schools they attended, saying it was for the purpose of “collecting statistics on student attendees.”
The woman declined to identify herself to the reporter and did not answer questions. The reporter then followed her as she walked in and out of various police-controlled areas of Victoria Park before leaving the area on a minibus.
Lee said on Wednesday that the police deployed officers to assess the overall number of participants on June 4 in order to conduct crowd control and maintain order.
“They did not make separate assessments on the number of students or any specific groups, and therefore such breakdowns are unavailable,” Lee said.
He added that the information collected “[did] not contain any personal particulars,” and members of the public can complain to the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data if they suspect that their personal data was collected illegally.
Lee did not directly address the claims made in HK01’s article, saying that he would not comment on individual media reports. In response to follow-up questions from pro-democracy lawmakers, Lee added that the report contained “inaccuracies” but did not further specify.
‘Exercising police powers’
Lee also said that, under the current requirements, police plainclothes officers “shall identify themselves and produce their warrant cards when exercising their police powers.”
However, Lee said that plainclothes officers are not necessarily exercising their police powers at all times. For example, an officer in plainclothes attending a publicity event would not be obliged to produce their warrant card, he said.
Lee did not answer a follow-up question on whether the woman in question was “exercising her police power” when interviewing the students at the vigil.