Confidence in Hong Kong’s police watchdog hits low

IPCC chairman blames police force’s bruised reputation for results of public survey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 7:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 9:56pm

Hongkongers’ confidence in the independence and objectivity of the city’s police watchdog has hit a seven-year low, but its chairman insisted that was partly to do with damaged perceptions of the police force itself after recent political strife.

Survey results released on Monday by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) showed only 46 per cent of 1,002 respondents agreed the council was independent, compared to 52 per cent last year and 60 per cent recorded in 2009, when the watchdog was named a statutory body.

People who found the organisation impartial and objective declined from 53 per cent in 2009 to 40 per cent this year.

IPCC chairman Larry Kwok Lam-kwong said people misunderstanding the council’s work, and their antipathy towards police after the 2014 Occupy protests and this year’s Mong Kok Riot could be causes.

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“Different groups in the community have different views and disagree on how the police should take up law enforcement in some situations,” said Kwok.

“Naturally it would impact public confidence and perception of the police and therefore followed by a knock-on effect on the IPCC, because we are supposed to monitor the complaints against the police.”

The survey was conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKUPOP) between March 7-17 this year. HKUPOP director Robert Chung Ting-yiu agreed with Kwok and added the continued polarisation of the political environment was also a factor that changed the IPCC’s image.

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Public satisfaction with the police remained the lowest among the city’s nine disciplinary forces, according to an HKUPOP survey in May. The force got a satisfaction rating of 60.3, while the Fire Services Department led the pack with 78.5.

Former IPCC member Edwin Cheng Shing-lung, who stepped down earlier than expected, said he found the survey result disappointing and saddening.

He said members’ appointment by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying could give the impression that the watchdog was ruled by a Leung clique.

He also questioned Kwok’s leadership and working skills, which might have led to the watchdog’s poor credibility with the public.

Cheng said: “Kwok often uses the chairman title to comment on social issues in newspapers.

“This could leave the impression that the watchdog is taking sides. He should only comment on things that are related to cases or the work of IPCC.”