Hong Kong Police Force

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Hong Kong Police Force
Common nameHong Kong Police
MottoWe Serve with Pride and Care
Agency overview
Employees36,681 (2018)[1]
Annual budgetHK$ 20.6 billion (2019–20)[2]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionHong Kong
General nature
HeadquartersPolice Headquarters,
1 Arsenal Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Police officers32,416 (2018)[1]
Non-officers4,265 (2018)[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencySecurity Bureau
  • Operations and Support
  • Crime and Security
  • Personnel and Training
  • Management Services
  • Finance, Administration & Planning
Hong Kong Police Force
Traditional Chinese香港警務處
Simplified Chinese香港警务处
Hong Kong Police
Royal Hong Kong Police Force
Traditional Chinese皇家香港警務處
Simplified Chinese皇家香港警务处
Politics and government
of Hong Kong
Related topics Flag of Hong Kong.svg Hong Kong portal

The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF; Chinese: 香港警務處) is the primary law enforcement, investigation agency, and largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong. It was established by the British Hong Kong government on 1 May 1844. The 'Royal' title was bestowed upon the HKPF for their efforts in quelling communist riots in 1967. Royal Hong Kong Police Force (RHKP) switched back to its former name after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China.[3]

Pursuant to the one country, two systems principle, HKPF remains independent of the jurisdiction of the of Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China, which may not interfere with Hong Kong's local law enforcement affairs. All HKPF officers are employed as civil servants and hence required to uphold their political neutrality.

Hong Kong has been once regarded as "Asia's finest",[4] ranking in the top ten positions in the Global Competitiveness Report for the city's reliability of police services. The HKPF consists of some 34,000 officers, including the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force, civil servants, and its Marine Region (3,000 officers and 143 vessels as of 2009); this represents the second highest police officer-citizen ratio in the world.[5]

In recent years, the reputation of the police force has greatly declined due to the perceived overuse of force in democracy protests.[citation needed] In 2014, the HKPF made international news headlines for using tear gas against unarmed civilians during the Umbrella Movement. In 2019, the force once again faced unprecedented allegations of lack of professionalism and excessive use of force.[6][7] The HKPF's alleged indiscriminate use of crowd control measures (including firing expired tear gas in an underground metro station[8] and in areas without any protesters[9]), indiscriminate arrest of civilians without reasonable suspicion of crime or subsequent to planting of evidence[10], coercion, torture[11] and sexual assault[12] towards protesters and journalists (but also including civilians) has led many Hong Kong citizens to regard HKPF as a terrorist organization, as reflected by the over 159,000 signatures in a petition to the White House requesting the U.S. federal government to officially recognize HKPF as a terrorist organization.


The historical Central Police Station (left), Western Police Station in the 1950s(right)

A police force has been serving Hong Kong since shortly after the island was established as a colony in 1841. On 30 April 1841, 12 weeks after the British landed in Hong Kong, Captain Charles Elliot established a policing authority in the new colony, empowering Captain William Caine to enforce Qing law in respect of local inhabitants and "British Police Law" for non-"natives".[13]:6 By October 1842, an organised police force (still under the direction of Caine who was also Chief Magistrate) was routinely bringing criminals before the courts for trial.[13]:17 Caine's role as head of the police force ended when its first Superintendent was appointed on 22 February 1844, Captain Haly of the 41st Madras Native Infantry.[13]:40-41 The formal establishment of the force was gazetted on 1 May 1844.[14]

The 1950s saw the commencement of Hong Kong's 40-year rise to global prominence, during which time the Hong Kong Police tackled many issues that have challenged Hong Kong's stability. Between 1949 and 1989, Hong Kong experienced several huge waves of immigration from mainland China, most notably 1958–62. In the 1970s and 1980s, large numbers of Vietnamese boat people arrived in Hong Kong, posing challenges first for marine police, secondly for officers who manned the dozens of camps in the territory and lastly for those who had to repatriate them. The force was granted the Royal Charter in 1969 for its handling of the Hong Kong 1967 riots—renaming it: the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (Traditional Chinese: 皇家香港).

The recruitment of Europeans to the force ceased in 1994, and in 1995 the Royal Hong Kong Police took responsibility for patrolling the boundary with China. Prior to 1995, the British Army had operated the border patrol. The force played a prominent role in the process of handover of sovereignty in 1997 and performs ceremonial flag-raising each anniversary.

In more recent history, the police force played a prominent role in handling the 2014 Hong Kong protests.[15][16]

Crest and flag[edit]

Plate Royal Worcester Fine Bone China. 150th Anniversary of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, 1844-1994.
Emblem of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (1969─1997)

The current crest of the force was adopted in 1997 so as to retire symbols of British sovereignty. Changes to the crest included: St Edward's Crown replaced with a bauhinia flower; the official title of the force was changed from the monolingual 'Royal Hong Kong Police' to the bilingual '香港 Hong Kong Police 警察'; the badge image changed from one depicting a junk and British ship in Victoria Harbour, to one with a modern view of Hong Kong Island and the modern skyline (Queensway Government Offices, Bank of China Building, City Hall, HSBC Building, and Exchange Square).

Changes to the flag included replacing the Blue Ensign, featuring the old crest, with a single blue flag with the crest centred in the middle.

Organization and structure[edit]

Logo of the Hong Kong Police Force

Commissioner of Police[edit]

The Commissioner of Police serves as the commander of the HKPF. Stephen Lo is the 6th individual to hold the post since the handover of Hong Kong, he reports directly to the Secretary for Security.


The HKPF is divided into 5 main departments, which are commanded by an assistant commissioner of police or an equivalent civilian officer, except the Planning and Development Branch which is commanded by a Chief Superintendent of Police.

  • Operations and Support ('A' Department)
  • Crime and Security ("B" Department)
  • Personnel and Training ("C" Department)
  • Management Services ("D" Department)
  • Finance, Administration & Planning ("E" Department)


Salaries and fringe benefits[edit]

Police officers enjoy remuneration far exceeding median incomes in the Special Administrative Region (HK$18,000 per month in 2019[17]), the base rate for newly recruited police constables with minimal high school education being HK$24,110 per month and that for high school matriculants being HK$42,655.[18] In addition, all officers enjoy extensive housing benefits, free medical and dental benefits (including coverage of family members), with substantial vacation, sick and maternity leave allowances exceeding statutory minimums.[19]

Police Welfare Fund[edit]

In addition, officers and their families enjoy substantial fringe benefits through the statutorily entrenched Police Welfare Fund which has current assets exceeding HK$200 million. Attracting funds in excess of HK$50 million per annum, almost entirely donations,[20] the fund trustee, the Commissioner of Police, has unfettered freedom to choose how the funds are to be expended.[21] The Commissioner disburses the bulk of its annual expenditure in the form of cash grants to police officers and their families.[20]

A donation of HK$10 million by the pro-Beijing Friends of Hong Kong Association, which consists of National People’s Congress delegates and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference national committee, in 2019, raised concern,[22] as did a 2017 donation of HK$15 million,[23] that fringe benefits may be inadequate.[24]

Further fringe benefits[edit]

Two trust funds established by statute in 1967 add further to the benefits enjoyed by members of the force. The Police Children's Education Trust and Police Education & Welfare Trust disburse funds by way of scholarships, bursaries and grants for education expenses and to assist officers with needy children or in financial difficulty.[25] These funds were also the recipients of, in total, HK$10 million of largess in 2017 from an undisclosed donor.[23]

Police associations[edit]

Numerous associations of serving and retired police officers have been formed over the years. Currently, they include the:

  • Superintendents' Association
  • Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association
  • Overseas Inspectors' Association
  • Junior Police Officers' Association
  • Royal Hong Kong Police Association[26]

The four serving officers' associations wield significant power, controlling half of the voting rights on the Police Force Council.[27] Government consultations with Police Force staff are formally conducted through the council[28] and the associations figure prominently at times of controversy.[29]


Police officers in summer uniform in 1954. Everything, except for the shorts, was used until 2004 (left), Hong Kong Police Pipe Band performance in Government House (right)

Current uniforms were changed in the mid 2000s. The older khaki uniforms were used for many decades. Hong Kong Police Force uniform currently comprises:

Uniform Branch: Dark navy blue jacket with the words 'Police', in English and Chinese, in reflective white tape, on the front left breast and back. Light blue shirts are worn by most officers, whilst white shirts are worn by senior officers. Dark blue cargo trousers and black caps are worn by all officers.

Tactical Units: these uniforms are identical to those of the Uniform Branch officers, although berets are worn rather than caps and trousers are tucked into boots. Riot helmets are worn for riot control.

Traffic branch: Reflective yellow jacket and navy blue riding trousers. In warmer weather, reflective vests with white sleeves are an alternative.

From the return of HKPF, all patrol officers and inspectors had their whistle taken off. The same summer uniform and winter uniform was worn until 2005.

Senior Constable, Sergeant and Station Sergeant ranks had their ranks moved to their shoulder slides.

Ceremonial uniform[edit]

They are white or dark tunic. Sword design was based on 1897 pattern British infantry officer's sword and used for formal occasions such as parade out or Legal Opening Day. They are fitted with a black whistle on the front right pocket and insignia on the collar for commissioned officers. A Sam Browne belt is worn too.

Retired uniforms[edit]

Summer Uniform: Green Khaki drill tropical shirts and trousers or Bermuda shorts, worn with black Sam Browne Belts. Females wore summer beige shirts with skirts. This uniform was worn until about 2005 when the force switched to a slightly modernized version of the Winter Uniform, to be worn all year round. The Green uniform can be seen in some of the older Hong Kong and Hollywood movies.

Winter Uniform: Cornflower blue (or white, for commissioned officers) shirts with necktie, worn under a navy blue tunic and Sam Browne Belt, with navy blue uniform trousers. Tunic may be removed under warmer weather.

Until 1998, all officers wore a whistle lanyard over the left shoulder running under the epaulet with the double cord attached to a whistle tucked in to the left breast tunic pocket. Uniform colour was black, however officers who had received a Commissioner of Police Commendation, or HE Governor's Commendation, were issued with and could wear a plaited black, yellow and red (Force colours) lanyard (for CP's Commendation) or red for Governor's. [30][31][32]


Police cars on a road in Central
HKPF Police Patrol Boat

Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are white, with a blue and red 3M retroreflective stripe around on the sides of the vehicle with wording "警 Police 察" in white, the only exception being the armoured personnel carriers specially designed for the Police Tactical Unit, which are wholly dark blue and with wording "警 Police 察" on a light blue background in white on the sides of the vehicle. Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are equipped with both red and blue emergency vehicle lighting. The vehicles which are assigned to airport duties have additional yellow emergency vehicle lighting. All police vehicles are government property and so bear licence plates starting with "AM".

Since 2008, the Hong Kong Police Force have brought in the use of Battenburg markings for new police vehicles of the Traffic Branch Headquarters. In addition, these new vehicles show the Force crest on the front part of the vehicle, which the Force has not used in the design of new vehicles for the last two decades.

The Hong Kong Police Force have unmarked police vehicles to catch and arrest criminals in the act; such vehicles include the discreet and high performance BMW M5 cars, among other types. Also, the Force operate unmarked police vehicles for surveillance to gather evidence of any criminal offence. In addition, for security purposes, armoured cars specially designed for the VIP Protection Unit (VIPPU) and bulletproof tactical police vehicles specially designed for the Special Duties Unit have no markings also.

The Hong Kong Police Force has ordered 10 new electric scooters for their officers to help reduce pollution in central Hong Kong. Emergency Unit, Police Tactical Unit, and Traffic Police have identification markings on the back of the car (no motorcycles of Traffic Police), for example, PTUD 1/3. This means PTU D Team 1st Team 3rd car. EU is like this: EUKW 23. EU means Emergency Unit, KW means Kowloon West, and 23 means the 23rd car of the Kowloon Emergency Unit. Traffic Police cars include TKW 2. T means Traffic Police, KW means Kowloon West, and 2 means the second car of the Kowloon West Traffic Unit. Until 2007, EU, PTU, and TP vehicles have identification markings like this (1/3 PTUD, 23 EUKW, 2 TKW).[33]


| P250 Dcc | SIG MPX


Model Service Details
Motorola scanner Standard police scanner for HKPF. Used by PTU, EU, PSU, RPT and BPU. MTP750 with receiver, MTM700, MTM800 for Police Vehicles and EU Vehicles
Flashlight Used by all units as light options.
Handcuffs British made models, used by all units as restrains.
Sabre Red Pepper Spray Mk. 3 and Mk. 9 models, used by all units as less than lethal options.
Expandable Baton 18-inch models by Phoenix and 21-inch models by ASP Inc., used by all units as less than lethal options.
Speedloader Used by officers armed with revolvers. 12 rounds of ammunition are issued.
Spare magazine Used by officers armed with semi-automatic pistols. Various number of rounds are issued based on the unit.
Swiss Army knife Used by PTU, EU, PSU, RPT, BPU and ASU
Police Log Book Used by all patrolling units
Hatch BNG190 Gloves Used by all units
Mark 3 Knife Used by SDU and CTRU.
First Aid Kit Used by all units as first aid options.
Cell Phone Used by all units as communication options.
Tear Gas Used by PTU for riot control.

Notable personnel[edit]

  • William Caine: the head of pre-Hong Kong Police Force from 1841 to 1844.
  • Lee Rock: A Chief Inspector from 1949 to 1974, who was a notable corrupt officer who got tens of millions during his time at the Force.
  • Nick Cheung: a Hong Kong actor and director. He was a former Royal Hong Kong Police officer. A movie was made about him in 1989 about his youth at the Royal Hong Kong Police Cadet School.
  • Li Kwan-ha: the first ethnic Chinese to serve as the Commissioner of Police in Hong Kong from 1989 to 1994.
  • Eddie Hui: the last Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police from 1994–1997, and the first Commissioner of Hong Kong Police from 1 July 1997 to 1 January 2001.
  • Stephen Lo: the current Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police.
  • Joe Ma: a Hong Kong TVB actor. He was a member of the elite VIP Protection Unit(G4) before he joined the Hong Kong entertainment industry in 1993.

Reputation and controversies[edit]

The HKPF was once regarded as "Asia's finest", with a strong track record for fighting crime, being one of the most professional, efficient, honest and impartial police forces in the Asia Pacific region. Hong Kong is also regarded as one of the safest cities in the world.

After the handover of Hong Kong, the police's reputation declined. A common complaint is that the HKPF follows directives given by the pro-Beijing government. They are more determined in confrontations with pro-democracy protesters, notably the 2014 umbrella movement and 2019 anti-extradition bill protests. Today, the force has once again been facing unprecedented allegations for its sheer lack of professionalism in the following areas: i) its use of excessive, disproportionate violence against civilians; ii) abuse of power by means of extra-legal arrests; iii) disregard of private property rights; iv) gross misconduct and suspected collusion with local thugs (triads/gangsters) who act as agents of the Chinese Communist Party; v) unprovoked assault of political opponents to cause grave bodily harm.[34][35][36][37]

In popular culture[edit]

The Hong Kong Police Force and its previous incarnation have been the subject of many films and television shows, including the locally produced Police Story film series, The Criminal Investigator, Infernal Affairs film series, Cold War, and OCTB. English language films featuring the HKPF include Rush Hour.

The Hong Kong Police Force and SDU have also appeared in popular video game series “Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege”, and "Sleeping Dogs", among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Police in Figures 2018". Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Estimates for the year ending 31 March 2019: Head 122" (PDF). Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  3. ^ Carroll, John M. (2007). A Concise History of Hong Kong. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-3422-7.
  4. ^ "From 'Asia's finest' to 'public enemy no.1,' Hong Kong's police force are in a paralysed state of confusion". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Organisation" (PDF). Hong Kong Police Force.
  6. ^ "Hong Kong police fight with protesters amid rising tensions". PBS NewsHour. 14 July 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  7. ^ Qin, Amy (14 July 2019). "Hong Kong Protesters Clash With Police Inside Shopping Mall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Police ramp up force as Hong Kong rocked by more protest violence". South China Morning Post. 12 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Police fire tear gas rounds in front of buses and residential area in Sham Shui Po". Dimsum Daily. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Hong Kong police deny planting evidence during extradition bill arrests". South China Morning Post. 13 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  11. ^ Standard, The. "Two cops accused of torturing man bound to hospital bed". The Standard. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  12. ^ "ACSVAW statement on the police's use of sexual violence in arrest of protester — ACSVAW". ACSVAW 關注婦女性暴力協會 (in Chinese). Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Norton-Kyshe, James William (1898). History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong. I. London: T Fisher Unwin.
  14. ^ "History". Hong Kong Police Force.
  15. ^ "Police fired at least 3 teargas canisters". Apple Daily (in Chinese). Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Police fire tear gas and baton charge thousands of Occupy Central protesters". South China Morning Post. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Employment Earnings". Census & Statistics Department, Hong Kong Government. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Salary". Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Welfare". Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Police Welfare Fund - Annual Report 2017/18" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  21. ^ "CAP 232 POLICE FORCE ORDINANCE Section 39E What the Police Welfare Fund may be used for". Hong Kong Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  22. ^ Cheng, Kris (19 July 2019). "The Friends of Hong Kong Association, formed of National People's Congress delegates and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference national committee members". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  23. ^ a b Tong, Elson (27 April 2017). "Police welfare fund recieves [sic] HK$111m in donations over 3 years". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  24. ^ "Hansard" (PDF). Legislative Council of Hong Kong. 27 April 2017. p. 6888.
  25. ^ "Police Children's Education Trust and Police Education & Welfare Trust". Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  26. ^ Leung, Christy (5 November 2017). "Is there a future for foreign police officers in Hong Kong?". South China Morning Post.
  27. ^ "Police Force Council". Hong Kong Government.
  28. ^ "Hong Kong: The Facts; Civil Service" (PDF). Hong Kong Government. September 2018.
  29. ^ "Second Hong Kong police union blasts chief secretary for apology over Yuen Long attack response". South China Morning Post. 27 July 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  30. ^ Personal experience, I was there
  31. ^ https://www.police.gov.hk/offbeat/617/letter.html
  32. ^ http://gmic.co.uk/topic/42758-commisioner39s-commendations/
  33. ^ "Boys in blue go green". Boys in blue go green. CNN. 27 November 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Hong Kong police fight with protesters amid rising tensions". PBS NewsHour. 14 July 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  35. ^ Qin, Amy (14 July 2019). "Hong Kong Protesters Clash With Police Inside Shopping Mall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  36. ^ "How a peaceful rally led to bloodshed and chaos in Hong Kong mall". South China Morning Post. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  37. ^ Kuo, Lily; Yu, Verna (22 July 2019). "'Where were the police?' Hong Kong outcry after masked thugs launch attack". The Guardian.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hong Kong – The Facts, published by the Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
First in Order of Precedence
Hong Kong Police Force Succeeded by
Independent Commission Against Corruption