Some complaints against Hong Kong police ‘substantiated’ following internal probe of protest conduct, chief says

Kimmy Chung

Hong Kong’s police chief has revealed that some complaints against officers over the months-long anti-government protests have been substantiated internally and referred to the force’s watchdog for review.

On Saturday, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung said on a television programme that a number of cases were classified as “substantiated” after investigations by the Complaints Against Police Office, the force’s internal unit.

“Some are substantiated, and some are unsubstantiated. Some are [classified as] ‘no fault’ and some are untraceable,” he said, adding that he could not go into the distribution of cases as they had been handed over to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

Commissioner of Police Chris Tang told a local television programme that some complaints objecting to police use of force had been ‘substantiated’ by an internal investigation and sent to the watchdog. Photo: Edmond So

At the centre of the storm was police’s use of force in the handling of protests, but the government has repeatedly rejected calls to set up an independent committee to look into incidents and quell public anger.

More than 5,100 Hongkongers have filed complaints involving some 1,600 cases to police since the social unrest, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, erupted last June.

Tang said many complainants referred to the same incidents, and most were people who were angered after watching online videos, instead of ones directly affected by police action.

The police chief previously said 21 officers had been reprimanded after the force launched its own investigation into alleged misconduct.

Opposition lawmaker Ted Hui, seen here after allegedly being pepper-sprayed by a Hong Kong police officer. Photo: Handout

Among those was an officer who rode his motor­cycle into a group of protesters, another who shot a sponge grenade at a reporter, and two incidents in which journalists’ identity cards were held in front of a live camera.

Lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung was among the complainants, and accused an officer of deliberately removing his eye shields before pepper spraying him in Causeway Bay on January 1.

“Tang said 21 officers were reprimanded. That’s impossible that only 21 were involved in misconduct over the past months. No one believes it,” Hui, of the Democratic Party, said on Saturday. He said he was asked to testify only recently and had yet to hear updates from police.

Hui went on to question police transparency, and said he had no confidence in the IPCC, as it had no investigative powers to subpoena documents and summon witnesses.

More than 7,000 Hongkongers have been arrested in connection with the unrest, with clashes between protesters and police often turning violent. Radical demonstrators hurled petrol bombs and bricks at officers, while the force has fired more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas and 10,000 rubber bullets.

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