The High Court has dismissed a judicial review filed by social worker and activist Hendrick Lui, who argued that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) had acted beyond its powers by initiating a probe into police handling of large-scale protests.

Lui challenged the watchdog’s decision, announced last July, to “proactively conduct a fact-finding study” on public order events since last June, when demonstrations erupted over the now-axed extradition bill.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

Lui’s counsel argued that the IPCC, tasked with reviewing the work of the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO), had no power to launch its own investigations. He added the IPCC study could contradict reports submitted by the force’s internal complaint-handling department, leading to confusion and issues with “procedural fairness.”

But a representative of the IPCC refuted Lui’s claims, saying the study was not an investigation and would not reach any conclusions related to the reportable complaints. The IPCC’s counsel added the study aimed at providing a “broad picture” of the unrest, which would facilitate the watchdog in performing its functions.

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

The High Court ruled on Thursday that the IPCC was compliant with its powers to conduct the study. The ruling also stated that there is no basis for limiting the role of the watchdog to “a narrow and passive one in the discharge of its statutory role and functions.”

“We want an independent commission of inquiry, not the so-called ‘fact-finding’ by the IPCC. [I] will definitely insist on the five demands, not one less,” Lui wrote on Facebook on Wednesday before the judgement.

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Hendrick Lui (centre). File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Last December, an international panel of experts resigned from their roles as advisers for the IPCC, after a leaked statement revealed they felt the watchdog did not have the capacity to conduct a proper investigation.

The IPCC had postponed the publication of its report in January in light of the legal challenge. Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that the over 300-page study – with a specific focus on police-protesters clashes on June 9 and July 1 – found “many shortcomings” in the force, citing unnamed sources.

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.