Nepali's death 'shows up need for rules on police sensitivity'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am

A human rights watchdog and ethnic minority groups complained yesterday about the lack of any recommendations from the Coroner's Court after the death of a Nepali street sleeper shot by a police constable was found to be a lawful killing.

They said some suggestions on preventing similar deaths should have been made after the case raised questions about police sensitivity in dealing with ethnic minorities.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said it was very disappointing that no recommendation was made after such a long and costly hearing. The verdict was announced yesterday at the end of an eight-month inquest into the death of Dil Bahadur Limbu that was originally set down for 25 days.

Law and Unison Hong Kong both called for an independent probe of the case. The earlier investigation was conducted by the police. 'This basically violates the principle of a fair hearing,' Law said. 'Even though the verdict was in favour of the police, it will not help to build up public trust in the police.'

Fermi Wong Wai-fun, executive director of racial equality group Unison Hong Kong, said she doubted whether the hearing had provided fairness and justice as no recommendations were made about racial and cultural sensitivities.

In an illustration of feelings in the minority community, more than 2,000 people from various ethnic groups took to the streets in a silent protest in March last year to demand an apology for and a fair investigation of the case.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Police Complaints Council said it had monitored the case's progress.

There were emotional scenes in the court yesterday as Limbu's widow, Sony Rai, wept uncontrollably and tried to strangle herself. Rai almost collapsed several times during the inquest, and broke down before the verdict was read, screaming her late husband's name.

The widow had come to the city from Nepal after her husband died. With help from the ethnic minority community and the Hong Kong government, she and her seven-year-old daughter stayed in Hong Kong for 13 months to wait for the ruling. They were supported by private donations, Wong said.

The hearing had also been distressing for Constable Hui Ka-ki, who fired the fatal shot and faced being accused of unlawful killing.

It was understood that Hui carried on with other police duties during the period when the hearing was being held.

Police officers who had opened fire were required to have training and a test before they were allowed to carry a firearm again.

Wong Ching, chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association, said officers involved in open-fire cases often come under great stress, especially if somebody was killed. 'They commonly get nightmares or insomnia,' he said.

It was also difficult for these officers to share their distress with others, he said. 'No one would feel easy about killing someone. And some may worry that they would suffer a stigma.'

The five jurors in the inquest were given an extra payment to recognise the length of time they had devoted to the case.

Coroner William Ng Sing-wai yesterday thanked them for the sacrifices they have made to fulfil their civic responsibility in what he referred to as a difficult inquest. He said that he would exercise his power as a coroner to exempt the five of them from jury duty in the Coroner's Court for life.