Hong Kong protests: Police watchdog ‘not designed’ for investigating force’s handling of anti-government unrest

Hong Kong protests: Police watchdog ‘not designed’ for investigating force’s handling of anti-government unrest

Formal head of the IPCC said it was unfair to burden the watchdog with the role, and supported the call for an independent commission of inquiry

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Anti-riot police on guard as anti-government protesters organise a protest in Central.
Photo: Felix Wong / SCMP

The reputation of Hong Kong’s police force has taken a huge hit over the course of the seven-month civil unrest.

This is despite government assurances about the effectiveness of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), which is investigating the force’s handling of the anti-government protests.

Speaking at this week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the current system for handling complaints against police is fair. She referred to examples of officers being charged with crimes during the Occupy Central movement in 2014.

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However, the government suffered a major setback last month when an international panel of experts who were overseeing the IPCC’s review of officers’ conduct announced they were quitting.

The latest blow came last week, when the government said the publication of the IPCC report on the social unrest has been delayed due to a legal challenge.

Senior counsel Jat Sew-tong, who led the police watchdog from 2008 to 2014, said it was unfair to burden it with investigating the city’s anti-government protests when it was not designed for the job.

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Speaking at a forum held at the University of Hong Kong on Tuesday, Jat said he supported the call for an independent commission of inquiry.

At a forum titled “Policing Hong Kong’s police: How to restore trust” held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club yesterday, Clement Lai Ka-chi, a former Hong Kong police superintendent with 22 years of experience, pointed out this is the first time there have been such massive protests in Hong Kong.

He believes officers will stick to the rules and regulations. “They are in the spotlight with all the cameras and live-streams; they dare not stray away from the guidelines too much.”

According to Lai, improved leadership is the key to managing the frontline officers.

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