Tear gas review up as security chief defends police report

Top News | Michael Shum 21 May 2020

A new task force headed by security chief John Lee Ka-chiu will meet for the first time next week to follow up on recommendations in the Independent Police Complaints Council report on police handling of the civil unrest last year.

Lee said the 1,000-page report was based on facts and urged people not to be misled by critics and instead read it in full.

He said his bureau established the dedicated task force to take up the 52 suggestions put forward by the report.

They include reviewing the use of tear gas, establishing guidelines for clearer communication with the public and measures to ensure officers comply with guidelines.

"We will be studying how best to carry out the 52 suggestions and the order of implementation, as some of them can be put into effect sooner than others," the secretary for security told the Legislative Council yesterday.

"And I will be reporting to the chief executive from time to time on how it is progressing."

Lee defended the report, saying it was drawn up after the examination of thousands of pictures and videos of protest scenes.

He insisted the police watchdog wrote the report with an open attitude and based it on facts from start to finish "and so the final report is balanced."

He added: "Throughout the whole process, the IPCC collected over 23,000 photographs, 22,000 video clips after receiving information through over 12,000 e-mails, 600 WhatsApp [messages] and over a hundred phone calls.

"So anybody who tries to make accusations against the impartiality of the report is making accusations that are not based on facts."

Lee said police have reprimanded officers in 22 cases of improper use of violence and behavior over the past five years.

"The police commissioner rebuked police officers in 22 cases, which mainly included inappropriate use of force, the use of inappropriate language and inappropriate behavior," Lee said.

"A rebuke from the police commissioner aims to immediately intervene in, stop and rectify the inappropriate behavior of officers, as well as let other officers know such behavior is inappropriate. It is an administrative measure and the starting point of the penalty mechanism."

He added: "If it is found upon further investigation that other actions are required, criminal or disciplinary investigations and procedures will be undertaken. Police will handle such cases in accordance with the established mechanism in a fair and impartial manner."

But Democratic Party's Andrew Wan Siu-kin accused Lee of "burying his conscience by indulging police use of excessive violence."

Wan added: "As the secretary of security, are you still going to turn a blind eye to police brutality, officers abusing their power and assaulting citizens, breaching rules and laws and disregarding discipline?

"Are you still going to be this evil and betray your soul and bury your conscience by indulging police brutality?"

But Lee said: "The one who is betraying his conscience is lawmaker [Wan], as the accusation is based on segments of video clips.

"Anyone who is bold and confident should make a complaint and report the incident to police if they have grievances."

Meanwhile, former governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten described the council's report as "pointless" as it favored police.

"As I understand, the foreign experts who helped the IPCC in putting together the report found it to be pointless, and they will publish their own report by early June," he said as he spoke through Zoom at a Foreign Correspondent's Club event.

Patten said the government's refusal to set up an independent commission of inquiry is "a blow to the hopes in society of a return to normality."

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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