The police chief has said that the force has arranged officers from another region to investigate the suicide of a man suspected of rape in Kowloon Bay.

The 48-year-old man surnamed Lam was arrested on Wednesday. He was suspected to have hanged himself at the Sau Mau Ping police station. He was pronounced dead at the United Christian Hospital on Thursday morning.

Lawmakers and rights groups have raised concerns over the incident as suicides in detention rooms are extremely rare.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said the force attached great importance to the incident.

“We have strict procedures and standards in handling detainees over the 170-odd years of police history,” he said.

“As to whether we adhered to those standards this time, [and] as to whether we did everything we should, we have authorised another regional crime unit to investigate the case.”

The team will review all security camera recordings to examine whether there were any cases of negligence by officers or security loopholes.

“If we find anyone who is responsible for the case, we will follow up with it seriously,” Lo said.

Lo also insisted that detainees are afforded all the human rights that the law promises.

An autopsy will be conducted and a coroner’s court will be convened.

The suspect.

TVB news cited sources as saying that the suspect used a computer network cable to hang himself. The sources told the channel the suspect was searched before entering the detention rooms, and that there were officers patrolling and checking the room once every hour. There were no suspicious circumstances before the suspect killed himself.

Because of privacy issues, there were no security cameras in detention rooms. Only the corridors outside the rooms were covered by CCTV.

But pro-democracy lawmakers Alvin Yeung said detention rooms were designed to prevent suicides, whilst James To said there was a security loophole and the police should have enough experience to understand the risks.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said it would be unfair to comment as to whether the police were negligent before investigations are completed.

“But, after all, there is room for review to see whether improvements are needed for facilities in detention rooms,” she said.

James To Kun-sun
James To Kun-sun. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

The Society for Community Organization said global studies have shown that the risk of detainees committing suicide is up to 7.5 times of that of the general public.

“Authorities have immense responsibility to take measures to prevent suicides,” it said in a statement.

The Society said the legal aid system should be expanded to provide free legal services to detainees to protect their rights. Psychological assessments should be made as soon as possible for detainees who have potential psychological issues, it said.

The detention environment should be improve as well, it added.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

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.