24 October 2016
Hong Kong police have come under fire again over the use of excessive force on pro-democracy activists during the Occupy protests last year. 
Photo: Reuters
Hong Kong police have come under fire again over the use of excessive force on pro-democracy activists during the Occupy protests last year. Photo: Reuters

Civil groups urge police reforms after damning Occupy report

A private report has accused the police of mistreating thousands of pro-democracy protesters during the Occupy Movement last year, and called on the department to undertake internal reforms.

In a report titled “Police Power in Umbrella Movement”, Professional Commons, a non-profit public think tank, said police excesses may have led to at least 2,067 citizens suffering physical or mental trauma.

The report, which was prepared in association with Hong Kong In-Media, an online media group, covered the period between September 26 and December 15 last year, when police sought to quell the Occupy street protests with a heavy hand, Apple Daily reported.

Professional Commons and Hong Kong In-Media jointly set up a database on police violence to help victims seek justice.

The cases compiled by the groups included physical injuries resulting from police beating and use of pepper spray, some of which were said to have resulted in people being hospitalized.

Meanwhile, statistics showed that 707 people had called a psychological support hotline service provided by the Hong Kong Red Cross or reached out to social work teams for help.

At least 109 cases that involved mental traumas were considered serious and required follow-up by psychiatrists, the report said, adding that 26 protesters had suffered sexual violence.

The report also pointed out that only 48 of the 955 arrested protesters during the occupy Movement, or 5.03 percent, have been prosecuted as of May, compared to the 12-86 percent prosecution rate range for protesters each year in the past.

In addition, people were convicted in only 11 of 32 cases where a verdict has been delivered. That marks a conviction rate of 34 percent, also clearly lower than the 47-53 percent range before. 

The figures suggest that the police had abused their power in making arrests, the report said.

Albert Lai, chairman of Professional Commons, said the cases point to serious defects in the police system, including a mindset of revenge and tendency to cover up misdeeds.

The police should let the public know of the guidelines related to use of force and also implement some reforms on the department’s internal system and culture, Lai said.

In other remarks, he said an independent commission should be formed in the Legco to investigate how the police deal with protesters.

Lai called on the government to file a report to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture, following the charges leveled against the local police.

The police, meanwhile, responded that they strictly follow the guidelines on the use of force. However, they insisted that they can’t be expected to lay bare all their operational tactics to deal with special situations.

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