Watchdog to observe police operation
Police have put aside initial reservations and agreed to let independent observers monitor their interactions with protesters for the first time during Sunday's handover march.
The force has reached a deal to allow the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) to observe its handling of the rally planned for the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule. The move was suggested by the watchdog in an effort to relieve rising tensions between demonstrators and police.
It was unclear how many IPCC representatives would be on hand and where they would be during the protest, although the police said they had reached consensus on a 'detailed arrangement of the observation'. Sources have told the South China Morning Post that the police were initially cool to the idea.
'These arrangements can equip IPCC with more knowledge of the handling of public events by police,' a police spokesman said. 'At the same time, IPCC can also be given the opportunity to look at related matters from the public safety and public order perspective.'
An IPCC spokeswoman said the council only learned about the deal yesterday morning and immediately sent invitations to members of its 24-seat board.
Tens of thousands of Hongkongers are expected to march from Victoria Park to the Tamar government headquarters in Admiralty to express dissatisfaction with the outgoing and incoming chief executives and the hanging death of June 4 activist Li Wangyang on the mainland.
Scuffles broke out between police and about 200 protesters in Central after last year's march. Police used pepper spray and arrested several protest leaders, bringing accusations of using excessive force.
In April, IPCC chairman Jat Sew-tong told the Post that the council wanted to help mediate discussions between police and protesters in public demonstrations. But police have baulked at the idea of letting council members attend meetings.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm moving towards Hong Kong could affect the march, the inauguration of the new chief executive and other handover celebration events on Sunday.
Observatory meteorologist Sandy Song Man-kuen said tropical storm Doksuri could be closest to Hong Kong on Saturday according to its predicted track, bringing unstable weather. But she said the storm was still more than 1,000 kilometres away and could change course.
Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said he believed the threat of bad weather would have little effect on the rally turnout, saying Hongkongers had a strong desire to express their dissatisfactions.
Police carried out another round of security checks outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday, where the inauguration will be held. Marine police boats were also seen rehearsing in the harbour outside the centre.
The number of people who marched on July 1 last year, according to police, although organisers claimed four times that figure