Hong Kong police have defended accusations of inaction over an attack on a 62-year-old man in a hospital by two policemen, saying they were not aware of surveillance cameras in the ward.
A video taken on June 26 showed two officers punching the man’s genitals, slapping his face, thrusting a baton at him, and shining a torch in his face.
The clip was publicised on Tuesday morning at a press conference held by Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was accompanied by the victim’s two sons.
At a daily press briefing later in the day, Chief Superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch John Tse confirmed that two officers had been arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
“Police will not tolerate any illegal assault or mistreatment of any person by any police officers… Police have given priority to investigating the case,” he said.
Tse added that officers saw the video for the first time at Lam’s press conference, saying: “The allegation that we were informed but covering up the incident is totally false.”
The officers will be suspended after criminal investigations are complete, Tse said. He offered no further information on the officers’ backgrounds or roles.
According to police, the son of the victim approached the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) — an internal department of the force — in late June, but CAPO failed to get in contact with him on four subsequent occasions.
“Since we were not able to reach [the complainant] to take a statement, it was impractical for us to carry on with the investigation earlier,” Tse said.
The force had previously gathered information on the roster of officers involved but had not taken any statements from them before Tuesday.
Not ‘normal experience’
Police also rejected allegations that they were negligent in their handling of the complaint. When asked why they did not approach the hospital themselves to obtain the CCTV footage, Tse said the “normal experience” was that hospital wards did not have cameras.
“Our investigating officers believed that the hospital wards did not have CCTVs, so they did not approach the hospital,” he said.
“It was a special type of ward, and my understanding is that the CCTV was also a hidden kind.”
When asked why the police did not level more serious charges at the officers involved, Senior Superintendent Steve Li said the charge was chosen based on available evidence.
Li did not rule out prosecutors choosing a more serious charge once the case enters legal proceedings.
Tseung Kwan O attack
As for the attack by a knife-wielding man in Tseung Kwan O, police said they arrested a 50-year-old man who holds a Hong Kong identity card.
The arrest was made around 3pm at the Lo Wu border crossing. The man admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attack, but his motives were still under investigation, Tse said.
Police denied the allegation that they were “slow to respond” to the attack, saying the force first received a report at 1:36am and officers arrived at the scene at 1:40am.
As for the criticism that officers did not view the CCTV footage of a housing estate, Tse said that police managed to see it at around 5am with a technician’s help.
Officers also tried to arrest the perpetrator at a Tseung Kwan O flat, but he had fled at the time, Tse added.
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