Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has said that people should consider filing complaints against the police through existing mechanism first, as the force faces mounting anger over alleged cases of misconduct during recent protests.

One of the demands of the anti-extradition law protesters was that the government set up an independent inquiry to investigate alleged police brutality during the last Wednesday’s protests against the ill-fated bill. Tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags were deployed to clear protesters occupying roads on June 12, as crowds pushed forward into police lines throwing objects.

Cheng said on Saturday morning that there was a mechanism in place to handle the grievances.

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

“People should consider handling complaints through the existing mechanism such as the Independent Police Complaints Council. An independent decision can come from this mechanism,” she said.

The Independent Police Complaints Council reviews complaints handled by the Complaints Against Police Office – a police internal department.

Extradition protest
Anti-extradition protest on Wednesday, June 12. Photo: Dan Garrett.

The anti-extradition law demonstrations escalated throughout Friday as thousands occupied streets between Admiralty and Wan Chai before descending upon police headquarters in Wanchai demanding accountability and hurling abuse – as well as eggs – towards the building. Thousands of protesters, mostly clad in black, dispersed overnight as roads were reopened.

‘Riot’ characterisation 

Another of the demands was for the government to retract its characterisation of the June 12 unrest as a “riot.” Police chief Stephen Lo had claimed that only five out of 32 arrested were participating in a riot.

Cheng said the “riot” classification would not affect the Department of Justice’s prosecution work.

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Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

“The Department of Justice will work in accordance with the law, the evidence, and our guidelines for prosecution,” she said.

She added that the department would not rush to prosecute unless there was a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Meanwhile, Cheng apologised in person on Saturday morning about the extradition law debacle following an apology made in a blog post on Friday morning.

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Protesters besiege police headquarters on Friday. Photo: Isaac Yee.

“Regarding the controversies and disputes in society arising from the strife over the past few months, being a team member of the government, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong. We promise to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticism and make improvements in serving the public,” she said.

Asked if it was sincere to apologise via a blog post, Cheng said she could only appear publicly on Saturday, instead of Friday, to give an apology in person.

Hong Kong has seen the largest protests in its history amid government plans to update the city’s extradition laws to cover territories with which there are no prior agreements. Introduced in February in response to a Taiwan murder, the since-postponed bill would allow case-by-case fugitive transfers to other jurisdictions – such as China – without legislative oversight. The plan prompted mass protests and a chorus of criticism from democratslawyersjournalistsforeign politicians and businesses, who say the mainland lacks human rights protections.

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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.