Confidence in the police watchdog’s review of the force’s handling of the ongoing protests – now into their eighth month – has never been strong. The public has been further dismayed by the Independent Police Complaints Council’s decision to delay its much-anticipated report, citing a judicial review over its investigative powers as the reason. Meanwhile, clashes between police and protesters have returned, with roads blocked and tear gas fired again following a peaceful rally on Sunday. The way forward is anything but clear. What is certain, though, is that the unrest that has been gripping the city is far from over. Sunday’s rally calling for more sanctions from foreign powers in the wake of the fallout sparked by the ill-fated extradition bill does not represent mainstream views in society. But dissatisfaction with the government and police remains strong, as reflected in the return of violence following a brief reprieve. With more public events scheduled during the Lunar New Year holiday, the situation is worrying. Police chief says ‘rioters’ should say sorry for damaging Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is to blame for her inadequate action to break the stalemate, partly fuelled by some questionable enforcement action by police. That is why the public still insists an independent commission of inquiry is needed. But Lam is adamant that a review by the police watchdog is the right way to go, despite its limited powers. The legal challenge is to ascertain whether the body has the powers to investigate. Public confidence was already dented after a panel of experts from overseas decided to “stand aside” from the review last month, saying more powers were needed to do the job. While the review is unlikely to answer all questions, it remains an important step to pursue accountability. The legal challenge has complicated the matter further and is now a matter for the courts to decide. Speculation is growing as to whether the report is being withheld to help the government ward off pressure for an independent inquiry. The watchdog must dispel such impressions and release its findings as soon as practicable. Lam dismissed the notion of police brutality when grilled by pan-democrat lawmakers at a question and answer session last week . Separately, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung also defended the force’s actions robustly at a meeting of the Central and Western district council. Whether the low-tier advisory body is the best forum to discuss protest incidents is open to debate, and the government argues that the opposition camp is acting beyond the council’s powers. A judicial commission looking into the protests remains the best way forward. If the watchdog’s probe is found to be inadequate or beyond its statutory powers, an independent inquiry should be pursued.