Royal Hong Kong Police Force: Wikis

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Hong Kong Police Force
Crest of the Hong Kong Police
Chinese 香港警察
Royal Hong Kong Police
Chinese 皇家香港警察

The Hong Kong Police Force (Abbreviation: HKPF; Chinese: 香港警察) is the police department of Hong Kong. Formed in 1844 with a strength of 35, the force evolved from an extremely broad-based role (with responsibilities that included fire-fighting, prisons, customs and immigration), to that of a traditional police service, with mostly civic responsibilities - although the force is still heavily committed to countering illegal immigration and smuggling. As of 28 February 2007, the force has a strength of 27,375, as well as 4,885 civilian employees. The force was granted Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969 and renamed Royal Hong Kong Police until the handover in 1997.[1]

The police in Hong Kong operate under local legislations and Hong Kong Basic Law and within the traditional constabulary concept of preserving life and property, preventing and detecting crime and keeping the peace. For times of emergency the force has a paramilitary capability. The Commissioner of Police reports to the Secretary for Security, who is responsible for all disciplined services in Hong Kong.

It is the vision of the Hong Kong Police Force that Hong Kong remains one of the safest and most stable societies in the World. By Independent surveys, it has been reported that about 90% of Hong Kong Citizen have confidence in the Hong Kong Police.[2] The Hong Kong Police Force is amongst the best-trained,and dedicated police forces in the World. International law enforcement bodies rank it among the most professional of its kind. It has also, to an almost unprecedented extent in Asia, won the trust and faith of the people it was created to serve.

With over 30,000 officers, the Hong Kong Police Force is one of the largest police forces. And as for equipment, purpose-built community police stations, modern communications, computerised criminal records and other hi-tech aids to fight crime, the force is unrivalled. Its marine fleet of 166 patrol launches and other craft is the largest of any civil police force.



A woman asking a sergeant for directions.

On 30 April 1841, 12 weeks after the British had landed in Hong Kong, orders were given by Captain Charles Elliot to establish a police force in the new colony. The first chief of police was Captain William Caine, who also served as the Chief Magistrate.[2] The Hong Kong Police was officially established by the colonial government on 1 May 1844, and the duties of the magistrate and head of police were separated. At the time of its establishment the police force consisted of 32 men.[2] It was a multi-racial force, including white officers, and constables of Indian (mostly Sikhs from Punjab), Chinese and other origins. Policemen from different ethnic groups were assigned a different alphabetical letter before their batch numbers: "A" for Europeans, "B" for Indians, "C" for local Chinese who spoke Cantonese, and "D" for Chinese recruited from Shandong Province. "E" was later assigned to White Russians who arrived from Siberia after the Russian Civil War. The head-dress also varied according to ethnicity: the whites wore kepis, the Sikh Indians had uniform turbans, and the Chinese wore a form of straw hat. All of them, however, shared the same green tunics in winter - giving rise to the nicknames, 'luk yee' (green coat) and later 'wu kwai' - (tortoise).

For several decades Hong Kong was a 'rough-and-tumble' port with a 'wild west' attitude to law and order. Consequently many members of the force were equally rough individuals. As Hong Kong began to flourish and make its place in the world Britain began to take a dim view of the government's lack of grip in both public and private sectors, and officials with strong values and Victorian concepts of management and discipline were sent to raise standards. Strong leadership, both of Hong Kong and of the force began to pay dividends towards the latter part of the 19th century, and business prospered accordingly. Piracy on the seas, a centuries old way of life for many dwellers on the coast of south China proved a thorn in the side of the Water Police from day one up until the early 1960s.

The 1890s brought challenges both operational and organisational - outbreaks of bubonic plague. 1893-94 and the annexation of the New Territories 1898-99 created difficult but surmountable problems. Hong Kong slid easily into the 20th century, at least in its first decade. The fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 brought civil unrest and the start of WWI in 1914 saw many European officers enlist and return to UK. In the 1920s and 1930s Hong Kong's general peace was punctuated by bouts of civil unrest sparked by labour disputes, instability in China and Japanese militarism. When war came again in 1941 an unknown number of police officers and reserves - Chinese, Indian, European and Eurasian had their lives taken by the Japanese during both the main conflict and the occupation.

Police in 1906 include Indians and Chinese.

Post-war, the mechanism of government in Hong Kong was a shambles and the police force was certainly in a bad way - no men, no equipment, devastated buildings and important resources like intelligence files, fingerprints, criminal records and personnel documents all lost/destroyed and the Water Police had 4 barely serviceable launches. Nevertheless, the situation presented an opportunity to 'start from scratch' and after the 'British Military Administration', during which Colonel C.H. Sansom headed the force, Hong Kong was in a position to stand on its own feet again in May 1946.

When Japan invaded, the commissioner was John Pennefather-Evans, through war-time internment he worked secretly to draft a conceptual plan for the reorganisation of the force. Although he was not to head the force after the war, his plans were broadly supported by Governor Sir Mark Young and implemented under the formidable Commissioner Duncan MacIntosh thereby generating the foundations of today's structure and philosophy. The proposals included equality in recruitment and promotion for local officers and the cessation of recruitment of European constables. Moreover, doubts about the willingness of Hong Kong people to accept Indian officers who had worked, and often abused their authority, under the Japanese administration (December 1941 until August 1945) forced authorities to wind down the Sikh contingent. Instead, Pakistani and Shandong Chinese were recruited as constables and this went on until the early 1960s. The last European inspectorate officers joined in 1994. The first female inspector joined in 1949, followed by the first intake of WPCs in 1951 - currently about 14% of the force is female, holding all ranks between constable and assistant commissioner.

The 1950s saw the commencement of Hong Kong's 40 years rise to global eminence. Throughout this period the Hong Kong police has successfully tackled many issues that have challenged Hong Kong's stability. Between 1949 and 1989, Hong Kong has experienced several huge waves of immigration from mainland China, most notably 1958-62. The force also took over responsibility for manning the border from British forces in 1990-91. In the 1970s/80s 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.

Police officers in summer uniform. The uniform, except for the Bermuda shorts, was used until 2004.

The most serious challenge though has been civil disorder. In 1956 supporters of the China Nationalist movement defied government regulations to provide the pretext for the eruption of conflict with pro-Communist activists and sympathisers - serious disorder was suppressed by the force and British military. In 1966 Communist groups fanned the flames of riots which broke out over a price rise on the Star Ferry. Following this instance in spring 1967, at the time of the Cultural Revolution in China, left-wing workers instigated long and bloody riots. The Hong Kong Police lost ten men during the turmoil which saw a 10-month campaign of insurrection, bombing and murder. For its determined and successful efforts in suppressing this lengthy insurrection the Hong Kong Police were granted the "Royal" prefix in 1969.[1] HRH Princess Alexandra was appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to become the Commandant General of the Royal Hong Kong Police. The prefix was dropped at midnight on 1 July 1997 when China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, and the force reverted to the title 'Hong Kong Police'.

Despite loyal and steadfast service and efficiency levels which have grown steadily over 160 years life has not always been rosy. No administration anywhere in the world has ever been free of corruption in varying forms and severity. The spectre of corruption became really prominent in Hong Kong in the 1960s, the Hong Kong Police - as did almost every government department - experienced this and it peaked between 1962-74, involving officers of all ranks and ethnicities. Reasons? Motives and opportunities were many and varied, but chiefly - 'motives' (poor pay and worries about Red China invading and abolishing pensions), and 'opportunities' (Hong Kong was enjoying vibrant economic progress and its industrious, self-starter people were forming thousands of small street-level businesses all ripe for 'protection').

During this time, the police, along with members of departments like Public Works, Fire, Transport 'et al.' all had their own distinct methods of earning illicit income to boost meagre wages. The police were the offenders with the highest profile and took most opprobrium. It took the determined stance of Governor MacLehose together with Commissioner Sutcliffe to instigate the firmest of measures to eradicate syndicated corruption - and the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1974 was the prime one. After teething troubles, including a mass walkout by officers in 1977, by the early 1980s a combination of the ICAC, firm police management, better emoluments and an amnesty had succeeded in destroying the overall culture, removing powerful figures, educating against greed and increasing accountability. It would be foolish to deny that there are no corrupt practices in any police force worldwide, but in 1974 Hong Kong set an example to the world and for over 30 years the police in Hong Kong have been as clean as any force in the world - if not cleaner.

Whilst 99% of the 28,000 police force is Hong Kong Chinese, the overall establishment reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong. Whilst the recruitment of Europeans ceased in 1994, as of September 2009, there are 185 Europeans in the force from inspector to assistant commissioner, and a handful of officers with Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Singaporean and Malaysian heritage. Moreover, many Chinese officers have resided in countries such as Canada, USA, Australia and UK. New recruits have to satisfy basic academic and language requirements (read and write Chinese and speak fluent Cantonese) as well as be a permanent resident of the Hong Kong SAR.

Up until December 2004, when a year-round blue uniform was adopted the Hong Kong Police had two seasonal uniforms - a green/khaki (buff for women officers) summer uniform and a dark blue tunic for winter, with constables and sergeants wearing blue shirts and more senior staff wearing white ones.

Over the years, the proportion of Chinese staff within the Hong Kong Police, and the numbers of senior staff has increased, for many decades the senior leadership remained exclusively European, though this began to change in the 1970s, and from the first appointment in 1989, the Commissioner of Police (and his deputies) has been a local Chinese.

Responsibility for the prisons passed out of the control of the police in 1879, a separate fire brigade was formed in 1945, and the Hong Kong Police assumed responsibility for immigration and customs & excise duties until 1961 - although the boundary with mainland China is still manned by police and a very high percentage of smuggling interdicted at sea is carried out by marine police.

Ranks and Insignia

The HKPF continues to use similar ranks and insignia 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.


The Force is commanded by the Commissioner of Police who is assisted by two deputy commissioners - a "Deputy Commissioner - Operations" supervises all operational matters including crime - and a "Deputy Commissioner - Management" is responsible for the direction and coordination of the force management including personnel, training and management services.

For day-to-day policing (Operations), the Force is organised into six regions:

The Force Headquarters (Management) is made up of 5 departments:

  • Operations & Support
  • Crime & Security
  • Personnel & Training
  • Management Services
  • Finance, Administration and Planning.

Regions are largely autonomous in their day-to-day operation and management matters, and each has its own headquarters, which comprises administration and operation wings, Emergency Units, as well as traffic and criminal investigation units. Each region is divided into districts and divisions and in a few cases sub-divisions. Currently there are 23 districts. The policing of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the main towns of the New Territories follow a similar pattern. Responsibility for law and order on the MTR underground railway, KCR and LRT which runs through several police districts, is vested in the Railway District.

The Marine Region, (AKA the Hong Kong Marine Police) with a fleet of over 145 launches and craft, patrols some 1,850 km² of waters within Hong Kong including the busy harbour and 244 outlying islands. Shore patrols are regularly mounted to maintain contact with inhabitants of small islands and isolated communities. In addition to normal policing functions, the marine police fleet is also responsible for maintaining effective law and order within Hong Kong waters with particular emphasis on countering illegal immigration and smuggling at sea. Marine Region is also the main agency in the Hong Kong search and rescue organisation for maritime operations within Hong Kong waters.

'A' Department - Operations and Support Wings

Force operational matters are coordinated by Operations & Support Department, which comprises two wings, a traffic headquarters and six regions. The department is charged with the formulation and implementation of policies, the monitoring of activities and the efficient deployment of personnel and resources. Operations Wing coordinates counter terrorism, internal security, anti-illegal immigration measures, bomb disposal commitments and contingency planning for natural disasters and is also responsible for the Police Dog Unit (PDU).

PTU vans standing by for the Hong Kong July 1 marches

The Police Tactical Unit (PTU) is an establishment of six companies comprising 1020 officers each. Their base and training camp is located in Fanling. In each company (under the command of a Superintendent), there are 4 platoons. Led by an Inspector or senior inspector, a platoon comprises 32 officers with 1 station sergeant (senior NCO) and 8 sergeants. The PTU provides an immediate manpower reserve for use in any emergency. PTU companies are attached to all land regions and are available for internal security, crowd management, anti-crime operations and disaster response duties throughout Hong Kong. The PTU also provides up-to-date instruction and training in internal security and crowd management techniques for a wide cross-section of Force members.

The Special Duties Unit (SDU) is a sub-branch of PTU, nicknamed as "Flying Tigers". The unit is split into 3 sections - Training, Administration and Action. The Action Wing is further separated into 3 teams - an Assault Team, a Scuba Team ("Water Ghost" team), and a Sniper Team. The SDU was formally establish in 1974 and originated from the former 'Sharpshooter Team'. Originally the SDU received much training from British Forces Overseas Hong Kong supplemented by visits from Special Air Service (SAS), Royal Marine and Parachute Regiment personnel. After about 15 years, the SDU took on its own training, mainly basing the tactics on British Special Forces techniques but also exchanging ideas with officers from elite units in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The Anti-Illegal Immigration Control Centre is responsible for collecting intelligence and monitoring operations in respect of illegal immigrants from the Mainland and Vietnam.

The Support Wing oversees the execution and staffing of operational support matters, including the formulation of operational policies for both the regular and auxiliary forces and for updating kit and equipment. It is also responsible for the various licensing functions of the Force. The coordination of all public relations activities is arranged through the Police Public Relations Branch.

Traffic Headquarters is responsible for formulating force priorities, policies and procedures on matters related to traffic; coordinating their implementation and monitoring their effects. It processes all traffic prosecutions and collects and maintains traffic-related data. Traffic Headquarters offers advice on traffic management matters, examines local traffic patterns and new major infrastructure projects. It also formulates, supports and monitors road safety education and enforcement programmes.

The Transport Division is responsible for the management and deployment of the Force fleet of approximately 2,400 vehicles, driver establishment and the acquisition of new police vehicles. It also administers all policy matters relating to police transport requirements.

The Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force was officially established in 1957 with the merger of the 'special' and 'reserve' formations which had been in intermittent existence since the 1880s. The part-timers were formally established in 1914 when numerous full-time officers returned to Europe to fight in WWI. Today the HKAPF forms a reserve of manpower to assist in times of natural disaster or civil emergency. By today, its approximately 5,000 officers are paid for their part-time support of the regular force and are involved in reinforcing daily duties and performing crowd control duties at public events and festivals. The ability to assist during times of emergency is retained.

Since October 1995 the Hong Kong Police has been responsible for patrolling the border with China. Prior to 1995, the British Army (Regular Army units from 1950s to 1970s, various units of the Brigade of Gurkhas from 1970-1990s and Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) 1979-1995) was responsible for border patrol. Units involved in patrolling the border area include:

  • Land Boundary Command
  • District Special Duty Squad of Border District

Officers patrol the entire 28 square kilometres of the Frontier Closed Area and at land crossings at control checkpoints.

'B' Department - Crime and Security Wings

Crime prevention campaign at Causeway Bay station of the MTR.

Crime & Security Department is responsible for the force policy regarding the investigation of crimes and matters of a security nature. Crime Wing consists of a number of operational bureaux and specialised units. The operational bureaux deal with specific areas of criminal activity whereas the specialised units provide support services to operational units in the force and deal with policy matters on various issues including child abuse, domestic violence and witness protection. Security Wing provides VIP protection and security co-ordination, including counterterrorism.

Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) investigates major organised and serious crime involving all types of activities such as theft/smuggling of vehicles, human trafficking, firearms, vice, debt collection, syndicated gambling and extortion. It also investigates triad societies and their hierarchies with particular emphasis on their involvement in organised crime.

Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) is the Force's central coordinating body for intelligence on crime and criminality which, after analysis and assessment, is disseminated to crime investigation units as required. In addition, the CIB works closely with the OCTB and other Crime Wing bureaux in tackling triad and organised crime syndicates. To strengthen the criminal intelligence capability within the Force, the Bureau also organises related training courses and seminars for investigators. Criminal Investigation Division or CID are sub-division located in each district.

Commercial Crime Bureau investigates serious commercial and business fraud, computer-related crimes, the forgery of monetary instruments, identity documents and payment cards, and the counterfeiting of currency and coins. It liaises very closely with international law enforcement agencies on exchange of intelligence and in actioning requests for investigation from other jurisdictions alleging criminal conduct in relation to commercial transactions.

Narcotics Bureau investigates serious drug cases such as importation and manufacture of illicit drugs, and gathers intelligence in relation to major drug activities. It also conducts investigations in partnership with overseas law enforcement agencies whenever there is a Hong Kong connection to international drug trafficking. The Bureau is also responsible for financial investigations using powers granted under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance, Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance and the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance.

Liaison Bureau coordinates all police-related inquiries from overseas police organisations and local consular officials. It also represents the force in Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organisation or ICPO) as a sub-bureau of the China National Central Bureau.

Crime Prevention Bureau provides advisory security services to the Government, commerce and industry, and the public in general.

Support Group is made up of units which provide a technical and professional service to support criminal investigation, including Criminal Records Bureau, Identification Bureau, Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau, Witness Protection Unit and Child Protection Policy Unit. The group also fulfils a liaison responsibility for the Forensic Pathology Service and the Forensic Science Division.

'C' Department - Personnel Wing and HKP College

A Hong Kong police van

Personnel Wing is responsible for all core human resource management functions, including recruitment, promotion, conditions of service, staff relations and welfare matters.

In recent years, the Personnel Wing has also ursurped the near exclusive right in adjudicating disciplinary proceedings brought against Inspectors and Junior Officers. The establishment of a dedicated unit to preside over disciplinary proceedings gave senior officers in the Personnel Wing easy avenues to influence the outcome of the proceedings.

The Hong Kong Police College is responsible for all matters relating to training within the Hong Kong Police except internal security, Auxiliary and Marine Police training. Training provided by the Police College includes recruit and continuation training, crime investigation training, police driver training and weapon tactics training. The information technology training, command training, local and overseas management training, some specialist courses and periodic courses on firearms and first aid are also provided by the Police College.

'D' Department - Management Services

Information Systems Wing has two branches and one bureau dealing with communications, information technology and business services. Communications Branch designs, acquires, examines and maintains all force communications networks and equipment including radio, video, navigational aids, speed detection radar, mobile phones, pagers, office telephones and mini firing range equipment.

The Information Technology Branch is responsible for the planning, development, implementation, operation and maintenance of information technology systems. It has over 10,000 terminals installed throughout Hong Kong supporting the Force in the spheres of command and control, criminal records, crime intelligence analysis, fingerprint identification, reports to Police, human and financial resources planning and management, transport management, licencing, and e-mail.

Business Services Bureau coordinates the business needs of the five departments of the Force. It consists of the Business Services Division, the e-Police Division and the Major Systems Division which acts as the System "Owner" for systems used Force-wide.

Service Quality Wing is responsible for spearheading initiatives to improve services provided to force customers both external and internal. The wing comprises three branches: Performance Review, Research and Inspections and Complaints and Internal Investigations (C&II). The Wing is responsible for implementing the force strategy on 'service quality' which aims at promoting efficiency, effectiveness and economy, whilst pursuing continuous improvement. The C&II Branch which includes the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) oversees the investigation and successful resolution of all complaints made both externally and internally against members of the force. The work of CAPO is closely monitored by the Independent Police Complaints Council to ensure that all complaints against police officers and traffic wardens are fully and impartially investigated. The findings of CAPO are seldom challenged by the IPCC.

'E' Department - Finance, Administration and Planning

Finance Wing is responsible for the financial management, stores and internal audit of the Force. Administration Wing is responsible for civilian staff, force establishment matters and the management of the Police Museum. Planning and Development Branch (P&D) coordinates strategic thinking and planning on options for the operational policing of Hong Kong into the foreseeable future. It is responsible for maintaining and modernising the police estate and for running projects for the construction of new police buildings/facilities.


Hong Kong Police Force current uniform comprises of:

  • Patrol: dark navy blue jacket with the words Police in English and Chinese in reflective white on the front left breast and back. Light blue shirts are worn by most officers and white by senior officers. Dark navy blue cargo pants are worn by most officers and dress pants by senior commanders. Caps are black for all members. Police duty belt are issued to patrol officers.
  • Tactical (SDU, PTU, ASU): Police Tactical unit wear the same tops and cargo pants as frontline officers. The exception are PTU headgear consists of blue berets and pants tucked into their boots. Police duty belt are issued to officers.
  • Traffic: Officers on motorcycles wear a reflective yellow jacket and navy blue riding pants. Some officers will wear a reflective vest with white sleeves. All other officers wear regular navy blue cargo pants. Police duty belt are issued to patrol officers.

The old Khaki drill green uniforms and Sam Browne belt that dated from British rule by frontline ranks and tactical units. Senior officers wore black jackets and pants during winter and khaki brown during summer. Some officers wore shorts during extremely hot summer periods, but they were not worn by senior officers. The old uniforms were replaced by the current uniform from 5 December 2005.

Early Chinese officers wore green uniforms with conical hats, while European officers wore blue uniforms. In later years Chinese officers transitioned to dark blue colours. Sikh officers wore turbans.

Other uniform gear:


Ground vehicles

This is a list of current and past vehicles of HKPF:


  •  United States HamiltonJet 13m Aluminium patrol boats
  • speed boats
  •  United States Damen Stan 2600 patrol boats
  • rigid inflatable hull vessels
  • Tai Fei - fast patrol vessels
  •  Australia BSC Marine Group patrol vessels
  • 2 30m Keka Class patrol launches - replaced 2 Kamen Class patrol launches
  •  Hong Kong Hong Kong Shipyards Sea Panther class - 2 large command boats
  •  Australia Transfield ASI Pty. Limited Protector (Pacific Forum) class - 6 small patrol boats

Firearms and Protective Gear

Model Service Details
Glock 17 / Glock 19  Austria SDU/VIPPU
Sig Sauer P250 Dcc Switzerland  United States OCID (Standard issue of OCID, replacement of Colt Detective Special)
Smith & Wesson Model 10  United States Service Revolver of HKPF, original wooden grips replaced by rubber ones. It is interesting to note
that the revolvers still bear the stamping RHKP on the grip... from the days of the Royal Hong Kong Police.
Heckler & Koch MP5A3/A4/A5/K/SD3  Germany Standard SMG(A4 SF or with Burst),SDU/ASU(A3/A5), SDU(K/SD3)
Remington 870  United States Standard Shotgun, foldable stocks for SDU
Colt AR-15 United States PTU
Benelli M1 Super 90  Italy SDU
Heckler & Koch G36KV  Germany SDU
Colt M4  United States SDU
KAC SR-25  United States SDU
Accuracy International L96A1  United Kingdom SDU
SIG Sauer SSG 2000  Switzerland  Germany SDU
Federal M201-Z  United States Grenade Launchers used by PTU
M16 rifle/AR15-A2  United States SDU/ASU
Beretta 92  Italy
Viper 600D Cordura vests  United Kingdom SDU
Reflective Safety Jackets (Yellow)  Hong Kong Traffic
Mk5 EOD Bomb Disposal Suit  United States EOD
Mk1 EOD Bomb Disposal suit  United States EOD
Telescopic stick PTU, SDU

Special Equipment

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau

Pipe Band

Hong Kong Police Force Pipe Band is a ceremonial unit of the HKPF and used for official events.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Carroll, John M. [2007] (2007). A Concise History of Hong Kong. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742534227.
  2. ^ a b The Hong Kong Police. "History - The First Century". Retrieved 2007-08-25. 

External links

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