Hong Kong police have earned an average of $11,000 (€9,880) for each officer in overtime pay during the last six months of anti-government protests, with the total overtime bill coming to more than $120m (€107.8m), the government said yesterday.
Police have covered more than 900 protests since June and worked overtime only in "inevitable circumstances", the government's security bureau said in a written response to questions from pro-democracy lawmakers.
The Chinese-ruled city has been convulsed by almost daily and often violent protests since public opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill developed into demands for greater freedoms.
The protests have regularly featured ranks of riot police firing volleys of tear gas or baton-charging protesters, often in central business or tourist areas. They in turn have been targets of petrol bombs and projectiles hurled by protesters, many of them masked.
There have been widespread allegations of police misconduct during the protests and public satisfaction with a force once held in great respect by the public has fallen to the lowest on record, according to a poll by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.
Police have described their actions as reactive and restrained.
One pro-democracy lawmaker said that Hong Kong had become a "police city".
"Many citizens must question why they have to pay this bill for police officers. The whole society is shocked," Au Nok Hin told reporters.
A pro-Beijing lawmaker defended the overtime payments, saying police should be paid extra for extra work.