Jitters over watchdog role in talks on protest policing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am


A plan to have observers from a police watchdog attend meetings between officers and protest organisers is being held up because of police reservations, it was revealed yesterday.

The Independent Police Complaints Council put the idea to the police last month, but earlier this month the force expressed concerns about the request for council observers, said a source familiar with the matter.

Council chairman Jat Sew-tong told the Post in April that the council would like to monitor police handling of protests as early as the planning stage.

Jat told RTHK yesterday some of the details still had to be sorted out. 'We need to remain neutral,' he added.

A source says the observers would not take part in discussions, but would act as a referee in case of any dispute.

The source said the police force was still considering how to interpret the role of observers and feared the 'naturalness' of meetings would be affected by their presence.

The council originally asked to attend planning meetings last week and yesterday for the annual July 1 march, but it is waiting for police to finish an internal consultation on that request.

A march organiser said it would be unreasonable for the police to procrastinate on the matter.

'If the observers are just there to monitor, there's no intervention at all, so there's nothing [for the police] to worry about,' said Eric Lai Yan-ho , convenor of the Civic Human Rights Front. He expected the police to issue a letter of no objection to the July 1 march by Friday.

Lai said that during closed-door meetings, police often outlined what he called unreasonable requirements. 'The content of the meetings should be more open and transparent.'

A force spokesman said the police welcomed any suggestions that would enhance communication with event organisers and would discuss the suggested mechanism with the council.