Bail for mall guards after barring cops

Top News | Amy Nip and Jane Cheung 10 Oct 2019

Five security guards have been arrested for trying to stop police officers from entering a shopping mall in Ma On Shan.

The three men and two women - aged between 28 and 62 - were arrested yesterday for obstructing police in carrying out their duties at MOSTown on Monday.

Three of the guards were released on bail last night as fresh protests began in the mall.

Residents gathered to support the guards, shouting slogans and singing songs, as riot police arrived.

Police said they received a report on Monday that the mall and the MTR's Ma On Shan facilities were being vandalized.

When officers arrived, the guards attempted to stop them from entering. Police said the guards tried to prevent the officers from investigating.

Video footage shows police attempting to enter the mall via a footbridge, with security guards refusing to open the bridge's glass doors.

When officers did enter the mall, a guard opened his arms in an attempt to stop them. A reporter was knocked down by officers trying to arrest a man.

The arrests triggered questions as to what circumstances allow police to enter private premises without a warrant. The Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies had sent a reminder to its members following a police meeting in August after the entry of officers into Amoy Plaza sparked a controversy.

The association quoted the Police Force Ordinance, saying an officer should be allowed into premises if he has reason to believe any person to be arrested has entered it. If a warrant cannot be obtained in time, police can break open any door to prevent a target from escaping.

The association's president said notices were sent to members and that they should provide clear guidelines to frontline staff.

Lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party said police should have a specific target to arrest before entering private premises. "They have to have a clear idea who they want to arrest," he said, adding investigation is not an adequate reason.

The Labour Party said riot police did not offer any valid reasons to the guards as to why they must enter the mall to enforce the law, nor did they specify who they were arresting.

"We criticized police for targeting grassroots security guards, arresting people who are faithful to their jobs. This is creating white terror. They attempt to scare guards of other malls and estates into allowing them into private premises for unreasonable arrests," the party stated.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said police do not have the right to enter private property without the owner's permission or a search warrant unless officers have an overwhelming reason.

"Even if there is an overwhelming reason, officers should tell guards of their intention or they will never know why they have to enter the building," he said.

Some argued that the guards only acted under the instruction of the property management company to prevent police from accessing the mall, but Luk said it can only be a reason for mitigation but not defense.

"For example, you can't defend yourself for murdering someone just because your employer asked you to do so," he said.

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