Watchdog 'unequipped to probe' police action

HONG KONG • The Hong Kong police watchdog is unequipped to investigate the force's handling of months of protests, a panel of international experts appointed by the city's government has found.

Despite five months of increasingly violent protests, the government has refused to give in to most of the movement's demands - one of which is an independent inquiry into the police. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has repeatedly dismissed calls for an independent probe, saying the watchdog - the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) - is up to the job.

Protesters argue that the IPCC lacks adequate investigatory powers, is stacked with pro-establishment figures and has previously been toothless when it comes to holding the police to account.

In September, Mrs Lam appointed a panel of independent experts to advise the watchdog. The panel includes policing specialists from Britain, Canada and New Zealand. It has now issued a damning assessment of the IPCC's ability and suggested a fully independent inquiry would be better suited.

The report, dated Nov 8, found "a shortfall in IPCC powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary to match the scale of events and the standards required of an international police watchdog operating in a city that values freedoms and rights".

The panel said if resources were enhanced, the IPCC might be able to issue an interim report "with limited, but sufficient facts". But there was a compelling case for a "deeper, more comprehensive an independent body with requisite powers". The report was not available on the IPCC's website. It was posted on Twitter on Saturday by panel member Clifford Stott.

The panel's conclusion is an embarrassment for Mrs Lam. "This panel... was hand-picked by the government... (The statement) only reinforces the urgency of an independent inquiry," said Hong Kong-based lawyer Antony Dapiran.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Watchdog 'unequipped to probe' police action'. Print Edition | Subscribe