Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Wednesday that she saw no evidence of abuse of power by police, and that existing mechanisms are effective in “bringing justice” to complainants.
During her first Q&A session at the legislature as the city’s leader, Lam was asked by lawmaker Nathan Law about whether she would investigate protesters’ claims that they were assaulted by police officers during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit last week.
Democracy activists struggled to be heard during Xi’s visit, as police put the city on security lockdown. Dozens of them were arrested or detained for hours.
Police violently beat up arrested protester on a closed police van. pic.twitter.com/W6CKRqrSo9
— Joshua Wong Chi-fung (@joshuawongcf) July 1, 2017
Activists Avery Ng and Figo Chan claimed they were assaulted by police after being arrested. News outlet HK01 captured photos showing Ng being pressed against the inside of a police vehicle and his hair pulled.
Ng told HKFP on Saturday that he was “kicked in the groin” twice by officers.
League of Social Democrats chair Avery Ng describes to HKFP how he was "kicked in the groin two times" by the police this morning. pic.twitter.com/pReGP7sWi1
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 1, 2017
There were scratches on his arm and lower back, which he said were inflicted by officers. Ng and Chan later reported the case to police.
On Wednesday, Law presented at the legislature a picture showing an officer appearing to pull Ng’s hair in a police van.
“You have said that the situation of police power abuse is an exaggeration, but evidence of Ng being attacked and assaulted by police is very clear,” he said. “Will you promise to deal with the issue of police discipline?”
Lam replied: “There have been more controversial events recently, so that police – especially frontline officers – face a lot of stress. This is why every time I visit police or attend their annual law and order committee event, I need to say things that are fair to them.”
“One thing that Hong Kong is proud of is our public security – our crime rate is the lowest since 1972.”
She added: “If anyone feels they were treated unfairly [during protests], they should believe that we have a complaint and investigative mechanism that will bring justice to them.”
When Law pressed Lam again on whether she would address public mistrust in police and growing concerns over their abuse of power, the chief executive said: “I don’t see any evidence of police abuse that Law mentioned, but all government departments always have room for improvement.”
“This is why during my election campaign, I said I hope my civil service will find ways to respond to growing public demands in terms of innovation and interaction [with the public].”
Barrister Randy Shek previously told HKFP that there is an absence of an effective mechanism for accountability. Currently, an internal unit of the police force handles complaints against police. Critics argue that the unit is biased towards officers.
He also criticised police for a “lack of self-restraint” when dealing with pro-democracy protests, urging the authorities to respect the rule of law and the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Meanwhile, senior researcher Maya Wang of NGO Human Rights Watch told HKFP earlier that the series of news reports on alleged suppression of pro-democracy voices during Xi’s visit “probably represent one of the worst assaults on Hong Kong’s freedom of assembly since the handover.”
She urged Lam to launch an independent investigation into the police handling of Xi’s visit.