Four complaints relating to two alleged cases of police misconduct during the recent protests have reportedly been classified as “notifiable,” meaning the police watchdog has no power to look into the incidents.

The first case mentioned in a report by HK01 took place last October 1 and involved an officer who appeared to throw a rubbish bin at protesters as they were fleeing from police tear gas in Wan Chai. The incident was caught on camera by AFP journalist Yan Zhao.

The second case took place last November 11 and involved an officer on a motorcycle who was filmed driving into a crowd of black-clad protesters in Kwai Fong, amid city-wide unrest and calls for a general strike. He was temporarily suspended.

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The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) told the newspaper that one complaint was filed against the police action in Wan Chai, claiming misconduct. Another complaint of misconduct and two complaints relating to neglect of duty were reported in connection to the Kwai Fong incident.

According to the current monitoring system, complaints against the force received by the internal Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) are classified into two categories – reportable complaints and notifiable complaints.  All four complaints were categorised as “notifiable,” meaning the IPCC cannot scrutinise the complaint to the CAPO but the office will need to inform them.

“Notifiable Complaints are outside the purview of IPCC but CAPO is required to regularly submit the summaries of such complaints to IPCC for examination,” the guidelines on IPCC’s website state.

It is unclear why the complaints were classified as “notifiable,” but the IPCC may lack authority if the complainants were anonymous or not directly affected in the case.

‘Not adequate’

As of last Thursday, the police had received 1,639 complaints about the handling of the protests which were sparked last June by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. According to figures on the IPCC website, more than 60% of cases were categorised as “notifiable.”

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Photo: Independent Police Complaints Council website screenshot.

Former IPCC member and legal scholar Eric Cheung told HK01 that the watchdog had limited power once a complaint was labelled as “notifiable.”

Cheung said many people who had been directly affected by police behaviour during the months-long protests feared that lodging a complaint against the force would have repercussions, such as being charged for taking part in an unlawful assembly. As a result, many cases were unreported or not followed up on.

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Lawyer and academic Eric Cheung. File photo:

“This reflects the system used in monitoring the police is not adequate in responding to current situations,” Cheung said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.