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1. Under what circumstances can the police stop and question me in a public place? Must I answer their questions?

Stopping and questioning


Under section 54(1) of the Police Force Ordinance (Cap. 232 Laws of Hong Kong), it is lawful for a police officer to stop a person who is acting in a suspicious manner. The police officer may require that person to produce proof of identity (i.e. by showing a Hong Kong ID card or passport), and detain that person on the spot for a reasonable period to make enquiries into whether or not the person is suspected of having committed any offence at any time. What constitutes a "suspicious manner" is based only on the subjective assessment of the police officer. However, the police officer must, in fact, have a genuine suspicion.


Section 49 of the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245) permits a police officer to require any person to produce proof of his identity for inspection for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating any offence. A failure by that person to produce proof of identity under these circumstances constitutes an offence.


The police and immigration officers also have power under section 17C(2) of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115) to demand any resident in Hong Kong aged 15 or above to produce proof of his identity for inspection. A failure by that person to produce proof of identity as required without reasonable excuse constitutes an offence. It should be noted that this provision does not apply to foreign visitors who are staying in Hong Kong for not more than 180 days.


The right to silence


The police have the power to question anyone in accordance with the above rules. On the other hand, the common law as well as Article 11(2g) of section 8 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383) provide that a person has the right not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt, i.e. every person in Hong Kong has the right to silence. By virtue of that right, a person may in general refuse to answer any question posed by a police officer. However, the driver of a vehicle who is suspected of committing a road traffic offence or being involved in a traffic accident must give his name, address and driving licence number to the police upon request (section 63 of the Road Traffic OrdinanceCap. 374).