July 1 march

Hong Kong police receive five complaints over handling of July 1 rally, sit-in

Watchdog told ‘excessive force’ was used to clear protesters who staged sit-in after July 1 march

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 12:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 1:51pm

The police have received five complaints about officers’ behaviour during the July 1 march and an overnight sit-in that followed, the police watchdog says.

The policing of the march, which was observed by Independent Police Complaints Council members and staff, is the first big challenge for new IPCC chairman, Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, who faced scrutiny on his appointment in May due to previous mainland political ties.

Two of the complainants alleged that “excessive force” was used to remove protesters taking part in the sit-in in Chater Road, Central, in the early hours of July 2, the IPCC said. The complainants also said police prevented them from leaving the protest site when they asked to do so.

Some 511 people were arrested during the sit-in, billed as a rehearsal of Occupy Central’s plan to block streets for democracy.

Details of the two complaints remained sketchy, but many protesters claimed officers had tried to hurt them to bending their wrists as they were removed.

Kwok said the force had explained that officers used the technique because protesters could be hurt if they struggled.

“I think that, because of the situation at the time, it was suitable,” Kwok said.

The other complaints involved minor disputes during the biggest July 1 rally in a decade.

A complainant was dragged from railings while trying to see why the march was moving slowly, while another complainant had a rude response on phoning 999 to ask the same question, said Daniel Mui Tat-ming, IPCC deputy secretary-general. The other involved a verbal altercation.

Organiser the Civil Human Rights Front put turnout for the march at 511,000. Police said 98,600 people joined.

Kwok said protesters progressed slowly, but would need to talk to organisers and police to find out why. The slow progress led to a dispute, with organisers blasting police for not opening more lanes and police arresting five organisers, accusing them of ignoring instructions.

Organisers of the Chater Road sit-in were among those arrested.

Kwok declined to say whether it was unusual that protest organisers were arrested. The watchdog was also considering whether to observe Occupy’s civil disobedience action should it go ahead, he added.

A commercial solicitor, Kwok served on the Guangxi Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, leading some to question his impartiality.