Journos call for action on police identities

Top News | Jane Cheung and Michael Shum 20 Nov 2020

Police should immediately order officers to wear their unique identification numbers in operations and set up an independent mechanism to handle complaints, the Hong Kong Journalists Association says in the wake of High Court decisions.

But police and the Security Bureau would say only that they will study the judgment in detail, with the Department of Justice "to determine follow-up actions."

And while authorities did not indicate whether they would appeal or if they would order officers to prominently display identification numbers, HKJA chairman Chris Yeung Kin-hing called on the force to "rectify the wrongs at once."

Front-line journalists had "faced violent issues in verbal and other forms from police officers," he said.

"We hope showing their identifications can introduce restraint and make officers accountable for their actions. They can't treat journalists inappropriately just because they think they are unidentifiable."

Yeung said he is willing to discuss improvements with the force and the Independent Police Complaints Council.

Another judicial review applicant and former liberal studies teacher Yeung Tsz-chun said the judgment came too late for her.

"We've seen much police brutality," said Yeung, a teacher who was shot and blinded in one eye by an unidentified officer last year.

"Many citizens were injured in police operations, and they need police identifications to seek justice."

She added: "The judgment [provided] an important ruling that the watchdog mechanism is problematic."

But IPCC chairman Anthony Neoh said he did not believe police breached the Bill of Rights on purpose.

"Police explained there were operational needs, but we did not agree and asked them to improve, which they did."

Still, the IPCC would continue to try to influence the police under the existing mechanism.

On whether the IPCC should have power to investigate, Neoh said experience overseas showed watchdogs may not work efficiently even with such power.

Legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming of the University of Hong Kong welcomed the ruling and said it could help people regain confidence in police and its complaint system.

"However, although the court ruled that police officers could not be identified, that does not mean the legitimacy of police law enforcement and arrests during the anti-fugitive bill protests cannot be challenged."

Human Rights Observer spokesman Icarus Wong Ho-yin said police commanders had condoned the concealing of identities.

"Officers should be held accountable to the public and receive punishment under the existing mechanism," he said.

"The government should probe the incidents and take disciplinary action on the officers involved as well as compensate victims."

Amnesty International Hong Kong's program manager Lam Cho-ming said: "This is a small step toward securing truth and justice over the widespread human rights violations that occurred during the 2019 protests."

He called for authorities to ensure the use of force is in line with international law and standards including the United Nation's Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms.

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