Hong Kong deputy leader says police will fully cooperate with protest inquiry and hints at changes to role of complaints body

Sum Lok-kei

Hong Kong’s No 2 official has said the city’s police watchdog may review its role after international experts criticised its lack of investigative power, but added the most practical step for the government to take was to wait for a report on the force’s handling of the ongoing protests.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung also said police would fully cooperate with the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and let members interview any officer they wished to see.

“The chief executive and police commissioner have promised to cooperate 100 per cent,” Cheung said. “Whichever police officer [the council] want to see, they will be happy to cooperate, there will be no refusal.”

Cheung also responded to a question from the media on whether it was possible to grant more power to the council.

Protesters storm the Legislative Council buildings during a protest on July 1. Photo: Winson Wong

A five-member panel of international experts said on Wednesday it would “formally stand aside from its role” after its request for more investigative powers to be granted to the council was denied.

The council presently has no legal powers to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses for its investigation.

“On the issue of [the council’s] powers, whether the council will review its role, this could be the next step of their work,” Cheung said. “But I think the most practical work for [the government] is to wait for the report.”

Cheung did not elaborate on what the review could entail, and the Post has reached out to his office for comment.

The council’s report of the policing of the ongoing protests sparked by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill is expected to be submitted to the chief executive by the end of December, and to be published in late January at the earliest.

The first report will cover events up to July 1.

Police fire tear gas to keep protesters away from government offices. Photo: Sam Tsang

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, a former council member, said Cheung’s claim that the watchdog would be able to summon any officer was untrue.

“We don’t know which officer is sent where,” Wong said. “If the police do not arrange for the relevant officers to be interviewed, it will affect the council’s investigation.”

Wong said interviewees would not be speaking under oath in front of the council.

“How much the officers will tell you is up to them,” Wong said.

Wong also said the council’s powers were stipulated in the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance, and those powers were unlikely to change unless the government proposed an amendment to the ordinance.

Instead, Wong said the government should just launch a commission of inquiry that has the statutory powers to summon witnesses and request documents from relevant parties.

Separately, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said there was no timeline for the establishment of an independent review committee into the social unrest, or who will be drafted onto the panel.

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