RELATIVES of a man who died after claiming he was subjected to a 20-minute beating by police in a busy marketplace, have demanded an independent inquiry. The Sunday Morning Post spoke to residents living near Fu Shing Street market in Tai Po who said a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered to watch the beating as it unfolded at 3.45 pm on March 6. 'We didn't think to call the police - it was the police. We thought that they were wrestling with a thief,' said one woman, who asked not to be named. One man said he saw an officer push the man's face to the ground, while another officer pinned his arms behind his back and beat him repeatedly on the chest. He said the third officer held the man's legs. Another witness estimated the attack continued for at least 20 minutes. 'The man on the ground continually cried out, asking to be taken to the police station,' he said. 'The man was wearing slippers, had a bag of biscuits in his hand and a soda drink. He was far from threatening looking.' The victim, Lee Sing-tat, 37, was said by police to have refused to hand over his identity card when approached for a routine check. 'A struggle between Mr Lee and the three officers took place when one of the officers attempted to stop him leaving,' a police spokesman said. The only explanation Mr Lee's family can offer is that he suffered from epilepsy and took medication, which made him slow. 'This might have irritated the police,' said his father, Lee Shi-hei. After the alleged assault, Mr Lee was taken to Tai Po police station, where he was charged with assaulting two officers. Mr Lee denied the charge and filed a complaint against the police, saying they had beaten him up. When Mr Lee's mother, Ning Siu-kun, arrived at the station she found her son still clutching the biscuits. 'What sort of weapon is a packet of biscuits?' she asked. She said her son complained of a severe headache and pains in his chest, and asked to see a doctor. Police took them both to the Tai Po Jockey Club Clinic at 8.30 that evening. 'We now want to sue the clinic for negligence. The least they could have done was to send him to a major hospital,' she said. Mr Lee was eventually released on bail of $1,000. He arranged to go to a lawyer with his mother at 10.00 am on March 8 to begin legal proceedings against the police. It was only when he failed to contact her on the morning of the appointment that she became worried. She had the door to her son's flat broken down and found him sitting on the sofa, his head lolling back. 'It was a complete shock,' she said. 'I immediately linked his death with the beating he had received from the police.' An autopsy was performed on Mr Lee's body on March 9. The Lee family was given the preliminary results by phone. It said the cause of death had not been determined. On the same day, Mr and Mrs Lee went to the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) and asked for a full inquiry into their son's death. 'We have heard nothing since,' said Mr Lee. 'We are totally helpless and totally in the dark. The pain of our loss is almost unbearable.' Police Public Relations Branch chief Eric Lockeyear told the Sunday Morning Post the CAPO inquiry could not begin until the investigation had been taken up by Tai Po police. The three officers involved in the alleged attack are continuing to work as normal. 'If we suspended officers from duty every time we had a complaint there would be no one on the streets,' said Mr Lockeyear. He denied there would be a conflict of interest with police from the same station policing their own colleagues. 'There are 400 officers at Tai Po. They are professional officers. If someone was a mate of one of the officers, they would say so. If they try to cover up something it would become immediately obvious.' Mr Lee holds little hope the true cause of his son's death will ever be established. 'I am afraid they will wash their hands of the case,' he said. 'They will have no hesitation in sacrificing one citizen to preserve the reputation of the loyal Hong Kong police force.'