A group of international experts appointed to help Hong Kong’s police watchdog conduct a study into the ongoing protests has said the body lacks power and urged for a more comprehensive investigation by an independent group with requisite powers.

In early September, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) announced that a five-member panel of international experts would help the body in its thematic study of the protests.

October 6 mask ban protest china extradition
Photo: Studio Incendo.

Large-scale protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill have lasted for more than 22 weeks, with the focus shifting towards calls for democratic reform. The police have been dogged by allegations of excessive use of force as well as selective policing during the Yuen Long mob attack on July 21.

On Saturday, Professor Clifford Stott, Dean for Research Faculty of Natural Sciences of Keele University in the United Kingdom, tweeted a progress report on behalf of the panel after looking into the scope of the IPCC’s powers.

“International Experts Panel for Hong Kong Independent Police Complaints Council study into the disturbances concludes a need to substantially enhance IPCC capacity, which if addressed may allow their Thematic Study to provide a compelling case for next steps,” Stott wrote.

The report by the panel said that the IPCC must enhance its capability to assemble a coherent account of the facts from police and other bodies; to access important documents and validate accounts supplied by police and others in a timely fashion; and to significantly improve its capability to identify and secure evidence from key witnesses from outside policing.

“Given the scale of events in Hong Kong it remains to be seen whether a light touch, oversight body like the IPCC, can make sufficient progress to produce any decisive contribution to an account of developments, that might enable necessary policy changes in policing practice,” it said.

“As a group we believe it may be possible to provide an interim report with limited, but sufficient facts to allow preliminary conclusions to be drawn on some of the drivers of protests, the handling of key events, and the evolution of disturbances.”

“But for that to happen, the IPCC will have to revise its resources and processes. It remains to be seen by whether it can do this in short order. If it can, we believe it may provide a compelling case for the next steps including a deeper more comprehensive inquiry in a number of respects by an independent body with requisite powers, but also enable actions to commence on improvements that can be made in the shorter term.”

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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.