Officers may face sacking over Li's visit
Simpson Cheung and Emily Tsang
Two officers who blocked a cameraman from filming during Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's controversial visit to the city last year will face a disciplinary hearing and could be sacked, and top officers may have to account for their actions, the police watchdog said yesterday.
The Independent Police Complaints Council said it had asked officers up to the rank of senior superintendent to justify their security decisions for the August visit as it released an interim report on the investigation of 16 complaints, covering 40 allegations of wrongdoing. The report has been passed to the chief executive and will also be sent to the Legislative Council.
It endorsed the findings of the Complaints Against Police Office (Capo) on nine of the complaints and ordered further investigation in six more. It cannot act on the final complaint yet as it is still subject to legal proceedings. Ten allegations were substantiated, it found.
The council says it wants to talk to more senior officers, and is demanding the force reveal documents relating to security arrangements and operational commands for the visit. It did not rule out holding some senior officers accountable for the problems.
In the case of the Now TV cameraman, whose lens was blocked by the hands of a sergeant and senior police constable as he filmed four men in black suits removing a resident of the Laguna City estate in Kwun Tong, IPCC chairman Jat Sew-tong said Capo reached its conclusion after a reconstruction of the scene.
'Capo did not accept the explanation of the two officers, who said their hands were stuck on the camera ... it could not be the case,' he said.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung drew scorn when he said the two officers had been reacting to a 'black shadow' moving towards them. Jat did not comment on whether Tsang could be held accountable for the comment. They were both members of the VIP protection unit.
The case of the man who was being filmed, Wong Kin, was still in the hands of Capo as he refused to be interviewed. Wong was arrested for wearing a T-shirt commemorating the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Wong, who welcomed the report, said it was only a small step towards 'justice', but he could not co-operate with Capo as he was taking legal action against the police.
A radio journalist's complaint that officers had extensively searched her bag and purse was substantiated, but investigators said there was no problem with police setting up a single press area that reporters said was too far away from Li.
An unnamed chief inspector will receive a warning for telling a Now TV journalist that, if she refused to move, a truck would be parked in front of the spot from which she was filming.
But Jat said there was no evidence of police intentionally abusing their powers or systematically interfering with the work of reporters.
The Journalists' Association said police should apologise to the public for abusing their power, and review how to strike a balance between maintaining order and respecting press freedom.
Human Rights Monitor questioned whether the system, under which the council has no investigative powers, was fair.
NowTV said it accepted the report, which proved that its reporter was treated unreasonably. It hoped that the police could learn from the incident and improve their treatment of journalists to safeguard press freedom.
The police welcomed the report and said it would assist the council, and identify areas for improvement.
Jat hopes the final report will be ready in July, depending on when police provide supplementary information.
IPCC interim report on the visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang
Nine of the 16 complaints handled by Capo are endorsed.
10 of the 40 allegations are substantiated.
Capo conducted 109 interviews. IPCC observers attended 106 of them.
Capo fully investigated four cases; five others could not be pursued; one was withdrawn; five were informally resolved; one is pending legal proceedings.
Six of the 38 police officers involved in complaints are to be punished, ranging from an informal warning to a disciplinary hearing.
A senior constable and a sergeant from the VIP protection unit, who blocked a NowTV camera in Laguna City, are to face a disciplinary review.
A radio reporter's complaint about an excessive search was substantiated.
A complaint about police setting up a press area too far away from Li was dismissed.