A human rights group has accused police of breaking with protocol on the use of body cameras during protest marches in July and October.
Civil Rights Observer published its first report yesterday after training volunteers to monitor interactions between officers and demonstrators.
The group sent 12 observers to the city’s annual July 1 march, whose crowd organisers this year estimated at 50,000.
Three volunteers also monitored the October 1 National Day march that drew about 1,500 protesters.
The observers said they saw police filming peaceful demonstrators on both occasions. However, a 2015 report by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) said recording should only be carried out for crime detection and for reviewing how events were policed.
At the July 1 event the group said it saw four plain-clothes officers following and filming two protesters holding a Hong Kong colonial-era flag, for 39 minutes in Wan Chai.
「These two demonstrators did not conduct any acts that were not peaceful or which may have been illegal,」 the rights report said.
The volunteers also saw police recording two marchers who gave political speeches that day.
On October 1 the observers witnessed seven officers filming peaceful marchers in Causeway Bay.
Icarus Wong Ho-yin said the 2015 IPCC report stipulated video recordings should normally be of an event as a whole, and that individuals became the subject 「only when there is a breach of the peace」.
「But in reality, the police do not behave like that,」 he said.
Videoing rallies may deter people from joining, Wong added. 「A protester might think: 『Will they come after me later? Why are the officers filming me?』 Subjectively speaking, it makes protesters feel threatened.」
Fellow Civil Rights Observer member Andrew Shum Wai-nam said it was not uncommon for democracy activists to become the target of police.
「If a protester is expressing his or her views in a peaceful manner I don’t see the need for such monitoring,」 Shum said.
The organisation urged the force to publish in full its protocol for filming with body cameras, since the 2015 report had only partially disclosed details, they said. Police were also told to reveal how they handled the video footage they captured.
The protocol states video should be destroyed within three months unless required for investigations or as evidence in court.
Wong said the rights group would file a complaint with the Complaints Against Police Office about the July 1 cases. The reports on the marches would be sent to police, the IPCC and the legislature’s security panel, he added.