LG2019/002 Independent Investigation Report - Final Report
Statutory Powers and Monitoring of the Hong Kong Police Force
Final Report Public Version
This investigation report is for public reference only. At the time of compilation, all information used herein is in the public domain. While efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, this investigation report cannot guarantee absolute correctness of the entirety or part of the information. We disclaim liability for any direct or indirect loss or damage arising from any errors, omissions, use or misuse of the information contained in this report or the linked websites. The editorial team of this investigation report reserves the right to update the content herein anytime without prior notice.
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Table of Contents
Editors’ Foreword 4
1 Executive Summary 8
Statutory Powers of the Hong Kong Police Force (“HKPF”) 8
Complaints Against Police and Regulatory Framework over Police Powers 9
Evidence of Suspected Police Transgressions While on Duty 9
Recommendations and Conclusions 11
2 Preface 12
3 Statutory Power of the Hong Kong Police Force 16
3.I Basic Information 16
3.II Relevant Laws and Regulations 19
3.II.1 Fundamental Rights and Freedoms 19
3.II.2 Police Duties 21
(i) Power to Stop, Detain and Search 23
(ii) Power of Arrest 23
Level of Force 24
Power to Enter Premises to Effect Arrest 25
Power to Detain and Bail 26
(iii) Power to Discharge on Recognisance 27
(iv) Search and Seizure of Property With and Without Warrant 28
The Search Warrant 29
Obtaining of Personal Data / Samples from Arrested Persons 30
(v) Maintaining Public Order 31
3.II.3 Protections to Police in the Due Execution of Their Duties 33
3.II.4 Unlawful use of force 34
3.II.5 Police Discipline 36
(i) Police General Orders 38
Police Conduct 38
Warrant Cards 40
3.II.6 Redress Against Police Misconduct 41
(i) Identification of Police Officers 42
(ii) Personal Injury and False Imprisonment 43
(iii) Private Prosecutions 45
4 Complaints Against Police and System of Monitoring of Police Powers 48
4.I Complaints Against Police Office and Independent Police Complaints Council 48
4.I.1 Complaints Against Police Office 48
(i) Existing Mechanism 48
(ii) Issues 50
4.I.2 The Independent Police Complaints Council 52
(i) Statutory Power 53
(ii) Constitution 56
(iii) Statistics in Recent Years 61
(iv) Case Study 64
The Chu King-wai Case 64
The Ming Pao Reporter Case 66
4.II Office of The Ombudsman and Civil Service Bureau 67
5 Evidence on the Suspected Contravention of Regulations against the Hong Kong Police Force when Discharging Duties (Until August 10 2019) 71
6 Recommendations and Conclusion 76
6.I Reforming IPCC 76
6.II Formation of an Independent Commission of Inquiry 77
6.III Political Reform 79
7 References 80
Abbreviation List 82
Appendix 2: Profile of Incumbent Members of the Independent Police Complaints Council 83
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When work to compile this report began in July, Hong Kong had just witnessed a horrific terrorist attack. An organized gang in white T-shirts, most of them carrying offensive weapons, assembled at the Yuen Long MTR station and carried out indiscriminate attacks on innocent passengers and journalists. Amid the mayhem, civilians, regardless of their age and gender, desperately tried to escape the barrage of fists and canes. Some of them were mobbed and beaten up, faces covered in blood, while some others were rendered unconscious. Their pleas for help, however, fell on deaf ears. Two uniformed police officers appeared at the scene only to leave immediately after. Emergency calls made to the “999” emergency hotline by thousands of citizens to report the incident went unanswered. At one point, the Yuen Long police station even pulled down its shutters to block concerned citizens from seeking help. The police eventually showed up, but by then all attackers already left the scene.
The Yuen Long Terrorist Attack (July 21 Incident) spurred rumors of collusion between the Hong Kong Police Force (“HKPF”) and local triad gangs. On the same day, the Chief Executive (“CE”) Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and several high-ranking government officials held a press conference condemning the vandalization of the national emblem on the building of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong. The personal safety and security of Hong Kong citizens were the least of their concerns, and they paid scant attention to the legal responsibilities and abuse of power of the HKPF. None of the questions raised by the press was directly addressed. Daily press conferences held by the HKPF evaded questions from the media regarding such issues, which further fuelled anger among citizens.
In the past, Hong Kong used to be seen as the world's premier financial hub. Its success was due in no small part to its well-established legal system independent from mainland China and various civil liberties enjoyed by the region, including the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. To those who are familiar with Hong Kong, the scene at Yuen Long MTR station would seem astoundingly surreal and beyond belief. When we first started working on this report in early July, we merely intended to make an objective analysis of the law enforcement situation by the HKPF and the regulatory framework in place. No one could have anticipated that the situation would deteriorate so rapidly: the July 21 Incident, the August 31 Incident, undercover police participating in the protests in order to arrest protesters and first-aiders, reports of torture of detainees at the San Uk Ling Holding Center (accused of being a “concentration camp” where extrajudicial punishments were carried out) and visits from lawyers and Justices of the Peace were denied. We are gravely concerned not only about the abuses of power by the HKPF that run contrary to the expectations of the Hong Kong people, but also whether the existing checks and balances are sufficient to regulate the behavior of the HKPF, and whether the Department of Justice is conducting prosecutions in a fair and unbiased manner. Clearly, the core of the problem is not merely misconduct of individual HKPF officers, but rather the unprecedented governance crisis caused by the erosion of the rule of law.
Even after countless rallies and conflicts, the government reluctantly withdrew the extradition bill, but remained deaf to all the other demands of the Hong Kong people. Calls for an independent inquiry into the HKPF were repeatedly ignored or denied. In response to this, we started this effort to gather publicly available information on suspected police abuses, explain the existing law on policing and how they are suspected to be violated, and the current supervisory framework. Although we lack the legal power to summon witnesses, we tried to base everything in this report on objective evidence. We hope our conclusions would be indisputable to a reasonable reader. In the end, we do not know how much impact this report could bring, but we hope every bit of effort would be of assistance to Hong Kong.
23 July 2019
(Amended in September to reflect current status)
To the People of Hong Kong
1 Executive Summary
A summary of the Independent Investigation Report follows: -
Statutory Powers of the Hong Kong Police Force (“HKPF”)
* The HKPF has access to massive manpower and financial resources, and wields considerable executive power. The purported objectives and values of the HKPF are written down in the open, but when it comes down to handling actual mass events, the actions of the police leave a lot to be desired.
* Even though the Basic Law grants Hong Kong residents the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the HKPF could impose undue restrictions using their statutory powers. Since police officers enjoy extensive statutory powers while performing their duties, it is not hard to conclude that when police officers are suspected of abusing their powers or breaching the law while on duty, there would hardly be any accessible channel for citizens to seek redress under existing law. The problem would only be aggravated if the HKPF and high-ranking officials continue to ignore the issue or even commend the police for their transgressions.
Complaints Against Police and Regulatory Framework over Police Powers
* Issues in the existing complaint mechanism:
* The Complaints Against Police Office (“CAPO”) is not independent of the HKPF. Many citizens find it difficult to trust a system that leaves the investigation of complaints of police abuse in the hands of police officers themselves.
* The Independent Police Complaint Council (“IPCC”) lacks the statutory power to summon witnesses for cross-examination and has an unsatisfactory track record in investigating large-scale events.
* The Office of The Ombudsman does not have the right to investigate police misconduct.
* Complaints filed to the Civil Service Bureau concerning police officers are generally referred back to the CAPO; the success rate of complaints