26 February 2020
The Independent Police Complaints Council said it will await the delivery of judgment on the judicial review. Photo: HKEJ
The Independent Police Complaints Council said it will await the delivery of judgment on the judicial review. Photo: HKEJ

IPCC decides to delay release of report on social unrest

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) will delay the publication of its interim report on the months-long social unrest, pending the results of a judicial review.

In a press statement issued after a meeting on Thursday, the IPCC said the first interim report was originally planned to be released in early 2020, but the High Court granted leave to an application on Dec. 20 last year for the judicial review (JR) which seeks to challenge the council’s power to conduct the “thematic study” as it is called, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

“Having discussed with its legal advisers about the ongoing court proceedings and after considering the various implications of the possible outcomes of the JR, it was unanimously resolved at [Thursday’s] meeting to postpone the decision on the publication of the interim report of the said thematic study until after the delivery of judgment in the JR,” the police watchdog said in the statement.

“The IPCC very much regrets that in light of the JR, it would not be appropriate to publish the first interim report as planned, but it will continue to work on the thematic study and to monitor and examine all reportable complaint cases arising from the [public order events] in a fair and impartial manner under the present IPCC Ordinance, and will as soon as the judgment of the court has been received, make a decision on publication.”

Hendrick Lui Chi-hang, a social worker who applied for the judicial review, accused the IPCC of using it as an excuse to postpone the release of its report, noting that a hearing of the case is expected to be held sometime between March and May.

He also said he will not withdraw his application, insisting that it is unconstitutional for the council to conduct investigative work.

IPCC chairman Anthony Neoh said on Dec. 17 the report would be out by the end of January or in early February at the latest.

Neoh had also said the first report would focus on presenting the big picture rather than discussing any particular case of alleged wrongdoing by police officers. It would lay out the facts with respect to the clashes on June 9 and 12, as well as the storming of the Legislative Council complex on July 1.

In Thursday’s statement, the IPCC said it will “use all efforts necessary to seek an early determination” of the judicial review.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting slammed Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who he said has been refusing to establish an independent commission of inquiry to look into police conduct as demanded by the public, and seeking to use the IPCC report as a substitute.

The lawmaker said the report may end up unpublished since it may take years to see the result if the judicial review is taken all the way to the Court of Final Appeal.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Law and a former IPCC member, said the delay is weird since the court has not issued an interim injunction against the police complaints body.

As such, releasing the report will not violate any law, Cheung said, adding that the IPCC may just be looking for an excuse for procrastination.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized several massive pro-democracy marches since June, said experts and academics had made it clear that the IPCC lacks sufficient power to conduct its investigations.

What Hongkongers have been demanding is for the administration to establish an independent commission of inquiry to do the job, Sham said.

Speaking on a radio program on Friday, Cheung said the court has not issued any injunction order while the IPCC report does not touch on the judicial review. The two are unrelated, he stressed.

Cheung said he believes the delay of the publication of the report is not out of legal reasons.

But IPCC vice-chairman Tony Tse Wai-chuen told reporters on Friday that considering the judicial review could have “far-reaching implications”, the IPCC has decided to wait for its outcome.

The council also hopes the applicant of the judicial review will cooperate so that a hearing could be conducted as soon as possible, Tse added.

Edwin Cheng Shing-lung, another former IPCC member, said he cannot understand the decision to delay the publication of the interim report.

If the report only lays out facts and complaints the council has received, it should have no conflict with the judicial review case, Cheng said.

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