Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Hong Kong’s independent police watchdog to investigate protest complaints, but lacks legal power to summon witnesses

Hong Kong’s independent police watchdog has launched an investigation into the force’s handling of the anti-extradition law protests over recent weeks.

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has asked the public to provide information regarding the demonstrations between June 9 and July 2, in order to reconstruct the material facts of the events and to assess the police response.

Protesters have demanded that an independent commission of inquiry be formed to examine alleged police violence. An investigatory commission formed by the chief executive and led by a retired judge would have the legal power to summon witnesses, but the government has refused to launch one.  The IPCC investigation, on the other hand, will have no such powers.

Anthony Neoh

Anthony Neoh. Photo: inmediahk.net

IPCC Chair Anthony Neoh said a wide-ranging study is needed to put the large number of complaints into context.

“We have received over 100 complaints. And each of these complaints represents a small corner of the whole picture. We can’t deal with them effectively without a whole picture,” he said.

Neoh said this was the second time the IPCC proactively launched such a study, as it was a rare measure. The first study was launched over complaints against police behaviour during the 2011 visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Hong Kong.

“We feel this is a necessary way,” he added.

police china extradition protest june 12 2019 Photo May James (19) (Copy)

Photo: May James.

Neoh said he considered inviting a judge to lead the study, but abandoned the idea: “Once a judge sits as a member of this committee, it will be difficult for him to do his judicial duty,” he said. “Even if it is a retired judge, most retired judges sit a few months a year as a deputy judge or a non-permanent judge in the Court of Final Appeal. So it takes him away from his duties.”

“The two [don’t] mix very well as far as I am concerned.”

In their form appealing for information, the IPCC said that the submission of information would not be used for crime reporting purposes.

But Neoh said that, if the submission contained information about legal violations, the IPCC would have to make a police report, and members of the public should consider whether to submit information if they could incriminate themselves.

IPCC

Photo: Screenshot.

Both the chief executive and the police have welcomed the study and said they will provide support.

“I am in full support of the study and have pledged that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will render full co-operation in the course of the IPCC’s work and will ensure that sufficient resources are provided to the IPCC secretariat,” Lam said in a statement.

The IPCC will submit a report within six months.

Hong Kong's independent police watchdog to investigate protest complaints, but lacks legal power to summon witnesses