Calls Grow For an Independent Probe Into Police Violence During Hong Kong Protests

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Riot police surround an injured cameraman after firing tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong, June 12, 2019.
Riot police surround an injured cameraman after firing tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong, June 12, 2019.

Authorities in Hong Kong on Tuesday faced a growing number of calls for a public inquiry into their handling of recent mass protests against plans to allow extraditions to mainland China, as chief executive Carrie Lam canceled a scheduled meeting of her cabinet.

Professional and religious organizations called on the government to set up an independent investigation committee to probe the events of June 12 and examine police actions, after Amnesty International said the city's police acted with unlawful force when using tear gas, rubber and textile bullets, and batons to disperse crowds of unarmed civilians on June 12.

They said the government's insistence that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) could handle any complaints was fundamentally flawed, as any complaints end up being investigated by the police themselves.

"The IPCC is itself part of the police force, and it's very easy to sympathize and see things from one's colleagues' point of view," Sing Ming, associate social sciences professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said.

Meanwhile, former colonial-era second-in-command Anson Chan hit out at Lam, saying she bears the greatest responsibility for the government's handling of the political crisis around planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would allow alleged criminal suspects to be sent to face trial in mainland China.

Britain also urged Hong Kong to conduct an independent investigation into police actions on June 12.

"I today urge the Hong Kong SAR government to establish a robust, independent investigation into the violent scenes that we saw," foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt told members of parliament. "The outcome of that investigation will inform our assessment of future export license applications to the Hong Kong police."

Hunt said no new licenses for "crowd control equipment" would be issued to Hong Kong importers unless human rights concerns were addressed.

Clear hostility

Back in Hong Kong, barrister Geoffrey Yeung of the Progressive Lawyers Group, said police tactics in the face of mass protest need to be looked at across the board.

"We could see for example that there's clear hostility towards journalists or the protesters at the scene, whether there was something that went wrong," Yeung told government broadcaster RTHK.

"Was it because the police officers went off the guidelines or was it because the guidelines themselves were problematic?"

Hundreds of protesters once more converged on government buildings on Monday, following much larger civil disobedience action by thousands of people on Friday.

The government said it wouldn't be holding a scheduled Executive Council (ExCo) meeting, although protesters only targeted immigration and tax headquarters and the Legislative Council (LegCo), before dispersing peacefully.

"The chief executive was elected by just 1,200 people," a protester surnamed Chan told RFA on Monday, in reference to the Election Committee that is itself hand-picked by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. "That's why she needs to be held to account by the public."

"The trouble is that even if one or two million people take to the streets, the government doesn't have to answer to them, so I think that this movement ... is useful, but that it's not going to be enough," he said.

'We've already had this'

An employee surnamed Cheung who works at Revenue Tower said she is broadly supportive of the protest movement.

"I do basically support them, but I think we've already had this on Friday, and now they're doing it again, which I think is going to alienate a lot of people," Cheung said.

"So even though I support them, I don't now, because I think they should have left us some way to go out and buy food and come back in again."

Pro-democracy lawmakers accused Lam's administration of hiding from the public by canceling the ExCo meeting.

"When the government claims they want to connect with Hong Kong people, this is blatantly a disconnection with Hong Kong people," Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung told lawmakers in comments reported by RTHK.

"The conflict is still in the society about the extradition bill," he said. The government should face up to the conflict ... and not be hiding from the scene."

Pro-democracy camp convenor Claudia Mo said officials are very nervous following the mass civil disobedience actions of recent weeks.

"This government has become a joke for the Hong Kong community and the international community," Mo told reporters.

Business as usual

Development secretary Michael Wong said much official business is proceeding as normal, however.

"It's true that the social atmosphere right now is quite tense, and we think that if there is a chance for the society to relax a bit, for everyone to calm down, then we can be pragmatic and do our job," he said.

Meanwhile, the government is facing a legal challenge over the failure of special tactical unit police officers to display their identification numbers during clashes on June 12.

A local resident has applied for a judicial review after he was told to stop taking pictures of the protests by police, and is calling on the court to ban police officers from carrying out their duties without displaying a valid ID.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Tseng Lap-yin for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.





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