Hong Kong police watchdog clears force over protest response

Hong Kong police watchdog clears force over protest response”

Lam told reporters on Friday afternoon that officials had invited several social leaders and scholars to sit on or chair an independent review panel, and some had initially agreed.

The protests started as a campaign against a now-shelved extradition bill that would have let criminal suspects be sent to mainland China for trial but evolved into broader calls for greater democracy.

Hong Kong's police watchdog is set to release a long-delayed report on officers' handling of its protest movement, a development unlikely to quell resurgent unrest or resolve accusations of excessive force as it falls short of the independent inquiry demonstrators have demanded.

At the same time, protesters calling for a fully independent inquiry rejected the idea that the IPCC was independent enough or had the political will to sanction individual officers. They faced increasingly angry frontline protesters who threw petrol bombs and bricks and in some cases wielded metal bars and tools.

The report found "room for improvement" in the police's handling of clashes with protesters, making recommendations such as a review of the police operational command structure, its guidelines on the use of force and officer training.

"I disagreed and I won't do it, especially when the nature of the movement has changed after a year. that is to use violence to threaten the government to concede to their demands", Lam added.

"The protests have been driven and continue to be driven by a consistent and continuing message of hatred against the police, repeated particularly on the internet", the report's authors wrote.

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Many protesters are furious about what they saw as police brutality and the fact that more than 8,000 people were arrested. The police have also been criticized for the way they've handled probes into rape and sexual assault allegations by demonstrators.

Jimmy Sham of the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer of the city's largest peaceful protests a year ago, compared the report to a "public relations show". However, the IPCC does not have its own investigative powers, such as the power to subpoena documents or summon witnesses.

A panel of global experts appointed to advise the council last November concluded that it lacked the power and independent investigative capacity to conduct a meaningful probe, but the council continued its work.

Public trust in the police force has plunged to a historic low since the onset of the protests, with almost 70% of Hong Kong citizens giving officers a failing score in a recent survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Instead of supervising the various problems emerged from police's law enforcing operations, the report mainly criticised the citizens", a Civic Party statement said. The IPCC's report seeks to provide a complete picture of the incidents through rigorously reviewing a tremendous amount of information and cross-checking information obtained from different sources.

Last year's historic unrest put enormous pressure on the city's police, who were forced to respond to hundreds of often violent rallies across the city over the course of more than six months.

But the IPCC's overall conclusion was of a police force facing down its biggest challenge in decades. "The government and the police force will definitely say "No" to that violence".

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