Hong Kong's police watchdog upholds ruling that top officer assaulted Occupy protester
A high-profile accusation of assault against a senior police officer during the Occupy protests was upheld last night - the first time in at least five years that the civilian body which monitors complaints against the police has ruled in favour of a complainant.
The landmark decision means Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is likely to be handed the rare task of deciding if the complaint against soon-to-retire Superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai merits a criminal prosecution.
After a special 90-minute meeting of the Independent Police Complaints Committee last night, the body's chairman, Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, said the watchdog had voted by a simple majority to uphold its original decision to "substantiate" a complaint by Osman Cheng Chung-hang that Chu assaulted him with his baton in Mong Kok on November 26.
Chu was divisional commander for Sha Tin at the time.
According to information provided to the Legislative Council by Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok in 2014, in the preceding five years there were 328 complaints of assault against police officers - none of which were substantiated.
Last night's meeting came after the police force's internal Complaints Against Police Officer (Capo), queried the IPCC's initial decision to substantiate Cheng's complaint, arguing that it should be changed to "not fully substantiated".
But it appears Capo's intervention backfired. It is understood that last night's majority in favour of sticking with the IPCC's original decision was 17-3, a wider margin than the earlier 12-6 majority.
It is rare for matters to be handed for adjudication by the chief executive - the last time was over a dispute between the IPCC and Capo over the police handling of the then-vice premier Li Keqiang's visit to the University of Hong Kong in 2011.
Former IPCC member and HKU law scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said: "In the past the chief executive in his reply only said he acknowledged the matter without anything substantial offered."
But given the IPCC's final decision plus the high degree of public concern, Cheung said the Department of Justice needed to explain to the public whether it decided to prosecute Chu or not, after preferably seeking independent legal advice.
"The public may perceive it as double standards if, when given substantial evidence, the DOJ only prosecutes civilians who assault police officers, but not the other way round," Cheung said.
Chu officially retires today.
The IPCC was set up in 1994 and succeeded an earlier independent review body, the Police Complaints Committee.