The police watchdog has found that only five complaints out of 274 related to the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests were substantiated.

62 per cent of cases were “not pursuable,” it found. It noted that the main reasons that cases were classified as “not pursuable” were if the complainants did not come forward to give a statement, did not provide sufficient contact details or respond to the police complaints department’s telephone calls, emails or letters.

Franklin Chu King-wai was filmed hitting pedestrians with a baton.
Frankly Chu King-wai was filmed hitting pedestrians with a baton.

The latest newsletter from the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) revealed that there were 172 complaints that the Complaint Against Police Office (CAPO) – a police department – was required to report to the Council after investigations. The IPCC has received investigation reports from CAPO for 169 reportable complaints and endorsed 168 of them.

The five allegations found to be substantiated were one count of “assault,” two counts of “impoliteness,” and two counts of “neglect of duty.” An officer received a warning for assault, eight other officers received advice for impoliteness, neglect of duty, and other allegations.

The newsletter highlighted the assault case involving retired superintendent Frankly Chu King-wai and another constable, who were filmed beating pedestrians with their batons during the protests.

YouTube video

Chu and the constable initially denied the allegation, and the CAPO classified the allegations as unsubstantiated after consideration. “Given the chaotic and volatile situation in Mong Kok that night, and the crowd displaying active aggression, [the use of force] was justified,” it said.

The IPCC disagreed and requested that CAPO substantiate the allegation. The CAPO then suggested changing the allegation to “unauthorized use of authority” and promised to substantiate it, stating that Chu incorrectly used his police powers but his actions did not constitute assault.

No evidence of harbouring

The IPCC disagreed once again, and suggested that the action taken against Chu should be elevated to a “warning with divisional record file entry.”

CAPO then agreed to the assault claim but said the allegation should be classified as “not fully substantiated.” The IPCC stood by its decision, and it was able to conclude the case with definite findings before Chu retired. The CAPO ultimately followed the IPCC’s decision.

Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, chairman of the IPCC, said there was no evidence to show that the police was “harbouring” Chu. Chu has yet to face any prosecution.

“Our standard of proof is lower than criminal [proceedings]… Why did it take so long for CAPO or the Department of Justice [to take action]? We do not know what they have done, but they may have to gather a lot of evidence – they cannot simply rely on the IPCC substantiating the assault to prosecute him. The standard of proof is much higher,” Kwok said.

Larry Kwok
Larry Kwok. Photo: IPCC.

Drop in complaints

The IPCC also issued its report for the year 2015/16. It endorsed 1,784 reports on complaints – involving 3,360 allegations – a decrease of 20.4 per cent compared to 2,241 cases in the same period last year.

The three major allegations were “neglect of duty” at 45.5 per cent, “misconduct/improper manner/offensive language” at 32.9 per cent and “assault” at 10.3 per cent. Of the 3,360 allegations lodged in 2015/16, 1,206 were fully investigated. Of these, 81 were substantiated, 60 were classified as “substantiated other than reported” and 523 were unsubstantiated.

It also received 1,572 new complaint cases from the CAPO this year, a decrease of 27 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“After the Occupy movement, mass public event or clashes between the police and the public often occurred in the past year. Although the overall number of complaints have dropped, the complexity of the cases and concerns over the handling of the individual complaints have increased – both have brought challenges to the IPCC’s work,” Kwok said.

mong kok fehd riot protest
The Mong Kok unrest, February 2016. Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

The IPCC raised 793 queries and suggestions to CAPO in 2015/16. Among these, 381 were accepted by CAPO.

Under the Observers Scheme – to observe police activity during protests –  1,704 observations were conducted in the year 2015/16. The IPCC said it strives to improve communication between the police and the public over issues of public concern, and hopes to increase the public’s knowledge of the IPCC.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.