Police watchdog dismisses complaint by reporter hit by police projectile during protests

In January 2023, the Independent Police Complaints Council (“IPCC”) dismissed a journalist’s complaint against the police. The journalist formerly worked for Commercial Radio, and had been shot by the police with a sponge grenade during the 2019 protests. The reporter first made his complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office (“CAPO”), a division within the police force. The CAPO dismissed his complaint, claiming that there was insufficient evidence. The journalist then sought a review from the IPCC, which was unsuccessful.

The altercation was captured on camera: the reporter was filming a police officer, who attempted to grab him. As the reporter ran off, there was a loud bang as another officer fired towards the reporter’s back. Hong Kong journalism groups condemned the police for the use of force. However, the IPCC said clips showed that the reporter had charged forward and touched the officer, and that the use of force was “not unreasonable.”

This was just one of countless incidents in which the Hong Kong police had used excessive and indiscriminate force during the 2019 protests. The attack on a journalist is worrying in itself for its impact on press freedom. In addition, the episode reflects the impact on individuals when there is no effective mechanism in Hong Kong to hold the police accountable. All the members of the IPCC are appointed by the Beijing-selected Chief Executive. The UN Human Rights Committee and a panel of international experts have all expressed concern about a lack of an independent police oversight mechanism in Hong Kong. In December 2019, a panel of overseas experts who had been appointed by the IPCC as advisers all quit, citing concerns that the watchdog did not have the necessary powers to carry out proper investigations into police misconduct. 

(This article originally appeared as an item in the Jan-Feb 2023 edition of our newsletter.)

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