Hong Kong Police Force

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. The Royal Hong Kong Police Force (RHKP) reverted to its former name after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to People's Republic of China.[6]

Hong Kong Police Force
Common nameHong Kong Police
MottoServing Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty
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 officersRegular establishment: 33,928 (2015 to 2016)[3]
Regular posts: 30,857 (as of January 31, 2019)
Auxiliary Compilation: 4,500
Assisted Posts: 4,500
Non-officers4,569 (as of January 31, 2019)[4]
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 Hong Kong portal

Pursuant to the one country, two systems principle, HKPF is officially 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.

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.[7]


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".[8] 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.[8]: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.[8]:40–41 The formal establishment of the force was gazetted on 1 May 1844.[9]

During World War II, the Kempeitai recruited former Chinese and Indian officers in the Japanese military police unit from 1942 to 1945.[10]

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 (Traditional Chinese: 皇家香港).

In 1974, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was created to give government wide-ranging powers to investigate corruption.[11] At the turn of the 1980s, the Hong Kong Police Force began marketing itself as "Asia's Finest".[12]

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 the handover of sovereignty in 1997 and continues to perform ceremonial flag-raising on each anniversary. 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 Hong Kong protests.[13][14] 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."[15] The Economist suggested that this change would curry favour with the central government of China.[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 criticized 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 refusal to show identification during protests.[25][26]

Organization and structure

The Commissioner of Police serves as the commander of the HKPF and reports directly to the Secretary for Security. The HKPF is divided into 5 primary departments: Operations and Support, Crime and Security, Personnel and Training, Management Services, and Finance, Administration & Planning.


Salaries and fringe benefits

Police officers enjoy remuneration far exceeding median incomes in the Special Administrative Region (HK$18,000 per month in 2019[27]), 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.[28] 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.[29]

Police Welfare Fund

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,[30] the fund trustee, the Commissioner of Police, has unfettered freedom to choose how the funds are to be expended.[31] The Commissioner disburses the bulk of its annual expenditure in the form of cash grants to police officers and their families.[30]

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,[32] as did a 2017 donation of HK$15 million,[33] that fringe benefits may be inadequate.[34]

Further fringe benefits

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.[35] These funds were also the recipients of, in total, HK$10 million of largess in 2017 from an undisclosed donor.[33]

Police associations

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[36]

The four serving officers' associations wield significant power, controlling half of the voting rights on the Police Force Council.[37] Government consultations with Police Force staff are formally conducted through the council[38] and the associations figure prominently at times of controversy.[39]

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. 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.[40]



Junior Police Officer (Rank and File)

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. SDU, Marine Police, and the Counterterrorism Response Unit have their ranks at the back of the helmet or vest. Inspector to senior superintendent ranks have a insignia on the collar of the uniform. Superintendents also have a white stripe fitted on the police hat. Chief Superintendents and up have a white stripe on their hats, 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.


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

They are white (similar to No.3 Warm weather ceremonial uniform) or dark tunic. 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 worn too.

Retired uniforms

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. [42][43]


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 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).[44]

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.

Notable personnel

  • William Caine, first Head of Police
  • Peter Godber Chief Superintendent serving as Deputy District Commander of Kowloon who was embroiled in a bribery scandal in 1973 and absconded
  • Nick Cheung, actor and director
  • Eddie Hui, last Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and first Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force
  • Li Kwan-ha, first ethnic Chinese Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force
  • Stephen Lo, Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force from 2015–2019
  • Lui Lok, notorious corrupt police officer
  • Joe Ma, actor


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  2. "Estimates for the year ending 31 March 2019: Head 122" (PDF). Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
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  5. "China's State Council Appoints New Police Chief in Hong Kong". New York Times. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
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  16. "Borrowed time". The Economist. 23 November 2019. p. 24.
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  • 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.
Preceded by
First in Order of Precedence
Hong Kong Police Force Succeeded by
Independent Commission Against Corruption
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