The Hong Kong police watchdog has said it will postpone the publication of a report looking into the force’s handling of protests, owing to a legal challenge filed against the body.

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) announced it aimed to submit the report to Chief Executive Carrie Lam in early February, after studying the police use of force since large-scale unrest started on June 9 last year. The protest movement was sparked by the now-withdrawn proposal to draw up an extradition agreement with mainland China.

IPCC top management. From left: Richard Yu, Anthony Neoh, Tony Tse, Lisa Lau. Photo: IPCC.

But the plan was scrapped after the High Court on December 20 granted a judicial review application filed by social worker Hendrick Lui. Lui argued the IPCC does not have the power to proactively look into the protests.

The IPCC said in a statement that after discussing with legal advisers, it was unanimously agreed at a special in-house meeting on Thursday to postpone the publication of the report, until after the judgment is delivered in the judicial review.

“The IPCC very much regrets that in light of the [judicial review], it would not be appropriate to publish the first interim report as planned,” it said.

China extradition protest admiralty clash
Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

It said it would use “all efforts necessary” to seek an early determination of the judicial review as it is in the public interest to publish the report.

The IPCC does not have investigative power. It is tasked with reviewing the work of the Complaints Against Police Office, an internal police department.

Last month, a group of five international experts hired to advise the IPCC on its report said they would “formally stand aside,” saying that “a crucial shortfall was evident in the powers, capacity and independent investigative capability” of the IPCC.

China extradition protest admiralty clash
Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said a judicial review may take years to complete if it goes to the Court of Final Appeal. “I believe the IPCC report will never be published,” he said.

Lam said the government should set up an independent commission of inquiry immediately.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal cited unnamed sources as reporting on Monday that the IPCC report, at more than 300 pages, found the police had “many shortcomings.” They included a lack of communication between front line commanders, inability to distinguish between peaceful and violent protesters, and lack of clear guidance on when to stop using force.

The report also said the San Uk Ling Holding Centre, a controversial facility near the Chinese border where alleged torture of protesters occurred, was not suitable to detain people who had been arrested, according to the newspaper.

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.