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Hong Kong Police Force

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Hong Kong Police Force
MottoServing Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty
Agency overview
Formed1 May 1844; 180 years ago (1844-05-01)
Annual budgetHK$20.6 billion (2019–20)[1]
Legal personalityPolice force
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionHong Kong
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersPolice Headquarters, 1 Arsenal Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Police officersDisciplined officers: 33,210 (2023)[2]
Auxiliary officers: 4,501 (2021)[3]
Civilian officers4,735 (2023)[2]
Agency executive
Parent agencySecurity Bureau
  • Operations and Support
  • Crime and Security
  • Personnel and Training
  • Management Services
  • Finance, Administration & Planning
  • National Security
  • Information Systems Wing
www.police.gov.hk Edit this at Wikidata
Chinese name
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

The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) is the primary law enforcement, investigative agency, and largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong.

Pursuant to the one country, two systems principle, the HKPF is officially independent of the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China, which under usual circumstances may not interfere with Hong Kong’s local law enforcement matters. All HKPF officers are employed as civil servants and therefore required to pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Basic Law.

The HKPF consists of approximately 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).[4]


The historical Central Police Station

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".[5] 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.[5]: 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.[5]: 40–41  The formal establishment of the force was gazetted on 1 May 1844.[6]

During World War II, Japan occupied Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Police Force was temporarily disbanded.

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 use of the title ‘royal’ in 1969 for its handling of the Hong Kong 1967 riots — renaming it the Royal Hong Kong Police Force.[7]

In 1974, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was created to give government wide-ranging powers to investigate corruption.[8] At the turn of the 1980s, the Hong Kong Police Force began marketing itself as "Asia's Finest".[9]

The recruitment of Europeans to the force ceased in 1994,[10] 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 the handover of sovereignty in 1997 and continues to perform ceremonial flag-raising on each anniversary.[citation needed] With the handover of sovereignty, the police force dropped the prefix "Royal" from its name.

In the 2010s, the police force played a prominent role in relation to the 2014 Hong Kong protests and 2019–20 Hong Kong protests.[11][12] Following Chris Tang's appointment as the Commissioner of Police in November 2019, the police force changed its motto from "We serve with pride and care", which had been used for more than 20 years, to "Serving Hong Kong with honour, duty and loyalty."[13] The Economist suggested that this change would curry favour with the central government of China.[14] In July 2022, as part of a process to remove colonial aspects from the force, foot drills changed from British style to Chinese People's Liberation Army style with a goose step. The language spoken during drills changed from English to Chinese, and junior officers stopped addressing higher-ranking officers with "Yes Sir".[15][16]


During the 1940s, the HKPF faced a number of corruption scandals involving officers. During the 1950s and 1960s, the force struggled with corruption issues relating to bribes from syndicated drugs and illegal gambling operations.[17] Police corruption again emerged as a major concern in the early 1970s when the Commissioner ordered investigations to break the culture of corruption, causing forty-odd officers to flee Hong Kong with more than HK$80 million cash (about HK$2 million each).[17][18]

More recently, the Hong Kong Police Force has faced extensive allegations of misconduct during the 2019 protests including excessive force,[19][20] brutality,[21] torture,[22] and falsified evidence.[23] In particular, the police were criticised for their failure to respond during the mob attack at the Yuen Long MTR station in July 2019.[24] Several lawsuits were filed in October 2019 against the HKPF for failure to show identification during protests.[25][26]

In May 2023, the HKPF recommended that schools install CCTV cameras in school classrooms to enhance security.[27]

From 2019 to 2022, 24 to 42 police officers were arrested per year.[28]

Organisation and structure[edit]

The Commissioner of Police serves as the commander of the HKPF and reports directly to the Secretary for Security. The HKPF is divided into six primary departments: Operations & Support, Crime & Security, Personnel & Training, Management Services, Finance, Administration & Planning, and National Security.

Special Branch[edit]

The Special Branch was established by the British Colonial Government of Hong Kong in 1934 originally as an anti-communist squad under MI5 with assistance from MI6.[29] The branch later joined the Crime Department of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force in 1946 and focussed on preventing pro-KMT rightists and pro-CCP leftists from infiltrating the colony.[30]


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[31]), 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.[32] 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.[33]

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,[34] the fund trustee, the Commissioner of Police, has unfettered freedom to choose how the funds are to be expended.[35] The Commissioner disburses the bulk of its annual expenditure in the form of cash grants to police officers and their families.[34]

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,[36] as did a 2017 donation of HK$15 million,[37] that fringe benefits may be inadequate.[38]

Addition fringe benefits[edit]

Two trust funds established by statute in 1967 augment 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.[39] These funds were also the recipients of HK$10 million in 2017 from an undisclosed donor.[37]

Police associations[edit]

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

  • Superintendents' Association
  • Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association
  • Overseas Inspectors' Association
  • Junior Police Officers' Association
  • Royal Hong Kong Police Association[40]

The four serving officers' associations wield significant power, controlling half of the voting rights on the Police Force Council.[41] Government consultations with Police Force staff are formally conducted through the council[42] and the associations figure prominently at times of controversy.[43]

Ranks and insignia[edit]

The HKPF continues to use ranks and insignia similar to those used in British police forces. Until 1997, the St Edward's Crown was used in the insignia, when it was replaced with the Bauhinia flower crest of the Hong Kong government. Pips were modified with the Bauhinia flower in the middle replacing the insignia from the Order of the Bath. The crest of the force was modified in 1997. The rank structure, organisation and insignia are similar to those used by the Metropolitan Police Service until the mid-1970s.[44] |}

Rank Abbreviation Insignia Description
Commissioner of Police
CP crest over pip over wreathed and crossed batons.
Deputy Commissioner of Police
DCP crest over wreathed and crossed batons.
Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police
SACP pip over wreathed and crossed batons.
Assistant Commissioner of Police
ACP wreathed and crossed batons.
Chief Superintendent of Police
CSP crest over two pips.
Senior Superintendent of Police
SSP crest over pip.
Superintendent of Police
SP crest.
Chief Inspector of Police
CIP three pips.
Senior Inspector of Police
SIP two pips over bar.
Inspector of Police
IP two pips.
Probationary Inspector of Police
PI pip.
Station Sergeant
SSGT wreathed crest.
SGT three downward-pointing chevrons.
Senior Police Constable
SPC one downward-pointing chevron.
Police Constable
PC ID number. [45]

Up until 1997, uniforms and hats had distinctions according to their rank. For example, senior constable and sergeant ranks are plastic ranks on the sleeve of the uniform. Special Duties Unit, Marine Police, and the Counter-terrorism Response Unit have their ranks at the back of the helmet or vest. Inspector to senior superintendent ranks have an insignia on the collar of the uniform. Chief Inspectors have a wide black stripe fitted on their police hats. Superintendents also have a small white stripe fitted on the police hat. Senior Superintendents and Chief Superintendents have a wide white stripe on their hats, Assistant and Senior Assistant Commissioners have 1 row of silver oak leaves on the edge of their hats while Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner has 2 rows of silver oak leaves, a slide with a silver vertical line on the collar of the uniform, a black baton, and a red whistle or a black and white whistle on the front right pocket.[citation needed]

Uniforms and equipment[edit]

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 uniform[edit]

The current Hong Kong Police uniform was implemented in 2005. Most front-line officers wear a light blue shirt and dark blue cargo trousers, while senior officers wear a white shirt.

A long-sleeved shirt is worn with a black necktie, while a short-sleeved shirt can be worn with an open collar in warm weather. A waist-length dark blue windbreaker can also be worn over the shirt in cooler temperatures.

Male officers typically wear a black peaked cap while female officers wear a black bowler hat with a red stripe. Dark-blue baseball caps may also be worn. Specialized unites wear either dark blue baseball caps or navy blue berets.

HKPF officers do not wear a badge, but instead carry a warrant card for identification. The uniform also does not include shoulder patches. Instead, a silver HKPF emblem is displayed on the headgear. The only patch on the uniform reads “Police” in English and Chinese, and is sewn above the left breast pocket of the shirt. Navy blue epaulettes worn on all uniform shirts and jackets show the officer's rank insignia (if any) and unique identification number.


Beat officers wear a utility belt which holds a sidearm (Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 revolver) in a holster, extra ammunition (including speed-loaders), handcuffs, a telescoping baton, a can of pepper spray, and a Motorola radio with a connected remote speaker microphone attached to the shoulder. Officers are occasionally equipped with a body-mounted camera, and electric Tasers are currently being considered.[46][47] Bullet resistant vests are not regularly worn.

Criminal Investigations detectives and specialized units are equipped with a wide variety of gear suited for their missions, including less lethal weapons and a range of firearms from European and American manufacturers, such as Smith & Wesson, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Remington, and SIG Sauer.

In 2020, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, placed restrictions on the sale of police and military equipment to Hong Kong following the passing of the National Security Law. As a consequence, the HKPF — who are seeking to replace its decades-old Model 10 revolvers and MP5 sub-machine guns — are searching for suppliers elsewhere.[48][49] In testing of MP5 replacements, the HKPF has expressed disappointment with the reliability of firearms from China and the ergonomics of those from Russia.[49]

Other uniforms[edit]

Traffic Branch Motorcyclists: A heavy, bright, yellow and blue reflective jacket is worn. In warmer weather, a lightweight yellow reflective vest is an alternative. Black knee-high leather riding boots are also worn with navy blue riding trousers, along with protective gear such as gloves and a white helmet. A blue baseball-style cap is worn when not riding.

Rural Patrol Unit: Cargo shirt and trousers in olive green are worn with either a dark blue baseball-style cap or a navy blue beret. Cargo shirt and trousers in Disruptive Pattern Camouflage is also sometimes worn.

Other specialized units: In some specialized units, a cargo shirt is worn in either olive green, dark blue, or disruptive pattern camouflage (depending on the unit), along with matching cargo trousers, and a navy blue beret or a dark blue baseball-style cap.

Ceremonial uniform[edit]

Ceremonial uniforms include either a white (similar to No.3 Warm weather ceremonial uniform) or navy blue tunic (similar to the old winter uniform). Sword design was based on 1897 pattern British Army 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 also worn.

Retired uniforms[edit]

The previous uniforms were reminiscent of the British colonial era, and were replaced with what were intended to be more modern, international, and cosmopolitan uniforms in 2005.

Retired summer uniform: A short-sleeved olive green tunic-style tropical field shirt, and olive green trousers worn with a black Sam Browne belt with shoulder strap. Female officers wore a short-sleeved beige shirt with a knee-length skirt until the mid-1990s when they were given the same uniform as male officers (without the shoulder strap). Bermuda shorts were worn by male officers instead of trousers from the early 20th century until the 1970s.

Retired winter uniform: A cornflower blue (or white, for commissioned officers) shirt with a blue and red striped necktie, worn under a heavy navy blue tunic coat and a Sam Browne Belt with shoulder strap, and navy blue trousers. The tunic may be removed and shirt sleeves folded up to the elbows when working indoors or in warmer weather.

Retired headgear: Pith helmets, turbans and conical hats were worn (depending on the ethnicity of the officer) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Berets, peaked caps and bowler hats (for female officers) were introduced in the early to mid-20th century. Baseball-style caps for some specialized units were also introduced in the early 21st century.

Until 1998, all officers wore a black 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. Officers who had received a Commissioner of Police Commendation or HE Governor's Commendation were issued a plaited black, yellow and red lanyard for CP's Commendation, or red for Governor's. [50][51]


A police van
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 and yellow rooftops required for all airport vehicles. All police vehicles are government property and so bear license 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 for better visibility on the roads. 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 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. For example, PTUD 1/3 means PTU D Team 1st Team 3rd car; EUKW 23 means Emergency Unit, Kowloon West region, 23rd car; and TKW 2 means Traffic unit, Kowloon West region, second car. Until 2007, EU, PTU, and TP vehicles had identification markings in a slightly different format. For example, “1/3 PTUD”, “23 EUKW”, and “2 TKW”.[52]


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 and Skyscraper.

The Hong Kong Police Force and Special Duties Unit have also appeared in popular video game series such as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege and Sleeping Dogs.[53]

Notable personnel[edit]

See also[edit]



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  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: Hong Kong – The Facts, published by the Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

External links[edit]