Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Police abused their power when filming protester at close range, watchdog report finds

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has endorsed a complaint that officers abused their power when unnecessarily filming a protester at close range. However, it was the only complaint out of 19 that was endorsed by the IPCC.

In a special report released on Thursday, four complaint cases concerning policing of public order events between 2011 and 2013 were presented by the council.

The only complaint that was found substantiated was filed for a protest outside Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s office in June 2012. An unidentified protester had thrown two placards over the compound gates during the protest, prompting the police to start filming.

Law Yuk-kai being filmed by police in close range.

Law Yuk-kai being filmed by police in close range. File Photo: Apple Daily.

After the demonstration ended, one of the protesters, Hong Kong Human Rights Watch director Law Yuk-kai, was filmed by police officers at a close range while he was interviewed by reporters. Law lodged a complaint that the officers’ action was unjustified since the interview was not part of the protest.

The police initially classified the allegation as unsubstantiated after an internal investigation concluded that the officers were trying to adjust the camera’s focus and  that there was insufficient evidence to show that recording the event was unreasonable.

However, police also registered an “outwith”—detailing police misconduct unrelated to the complaint—against the officers for continuing to record Law at close range.

Police taking videos at a protest.

Police taking videos at a protest. Photo: HKFP.

The IPCC disagreed with the police, substantiating the complaint and suggesting that the police consider revising their guidelines on video-recording procedures and disclose them to the public.

Law told Apple Daily that the IPCC does not have the power to demand that police disclose the guidelines—even after his complaint was endorsed. He said the police were not transparent enough.

A female HKFS official being "bear hugged" by a male officer. File Photo: Apple Daily.

A female HKFS official being “bear hugged” by a male officer. File Photo: Apple Daily.

In another case in 2013, an official with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) complained that a female colleague assaulted by a male police inspector who held her in a “bear hug” to drag her to the floor, thus keeping her from chasing after the Chief Executive’s car.

The complaint was ruled unpursuable as there was not a complete video recording of the incident.

The IPCC suggested that the police may be able to minimise similar complaints in the future by conducting risk assessment for public events where a large number of female participants are anticipated, and deploy more female police officers for crowd management if feasible.

The other two complaint cases described in Thursday’s report were either determined to be unsubstantiated, or it was found that police officers had not been at fault.

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Police abused their power when filming protester at close range, watchdog report finds