The chairman of a police watchdog has claimed that the “provocation” of police officers by protesters amounts to “bullying”, though he failed to detail what acts he was referring to.

Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), said in an interview with local newspaper Ming Pao on Thursday: “Protesters’ deliberate provocation against police is a form of bullying, and protesters do it because they expect that the officer will not react to the provocation.”

But when pressed for further details, Kwok said, “I don’t know [how protesters bully officers]. I got that feeling from reading media reports.”

Kwong Lam-kwong
Larry Kwong Lam-kwong.

Kwok added that, while some think the relationship between the public and the police force has deteriorated, others are satisfied with the force’s performance.

During last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests, the IPCC announced that it would not send members to monitor the protests despite widespread concern over police abuse. Kwok said that it was not appropriate for its members to monitor demonstrations under their official titles, as it might “affect the image of the IPCC as being fair and just”.

Police have been filmed provoking or responding to provocation by demonstrators. Following a student group’s attempt to surround the government headquarters on December 1, a police officer was seen raising his middle finger towards protesters. Several police officers were also filmed clapping and motioning at protesters to approach them.

Police officer middle figure
A police officer raised the middle figure against protesters during Occupy on December 2nd.

A protester was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment last week for assaulting a police officer during the Occupy demonstrations. The defendant said that he attacked the police after hearing an officer telling a female protester, “I’ll take you to the police station and rape you.”

In the latest survey by HKU’s Public Opinion Program, the Hong Kong police force ranked last in popularity among all disciplinary forces. Half of the respondents supported the police force and the other half disapproved.

In March 2015, the IPCC announced that they had received more than 2,427 complaints related to the Occupy protests, including 709 cases of alleged assault by police. However, only 159 cases required investigation, as many came from media coverage rather than first-hand experience.

In May, the IPCC have reportedly received more than 30,000 complaints since October 2014, with over 16,000 targeted at Kwok ‘s role as chairman. None were upheld.

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.