The violent protests that rocked Hong Kong last year have gone, as the city battles to control the spread of Covid-19 and adapts to a sweeping new national security law. But many of the issues arising from the months of civil unrest remain unresolved. The most pressing of these is police accountability. More than 1,600 complaints were made against officers during the protests and there were widespread calls for an independent inquiry. These were rejected by the government which insisted allegations be dealt with under the existing complaints system. The result was a report by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) in May that concluded police had no systemic problem and only used force in response to violence. The system, in which allegations are initially investigated internally by the Complaints Against Police Office, was found by a court yesterday to be insufficiently independent and efficient to meet legal requirements. The judge also ruled police had unlawfully failed to ensure officers wear a unique mark when on duty, so they can be identified if there is a complaint against them. The government is likely to appeal against the ruling. But there are good reasons why it should act on the judge’s findings. During the protests, officers were permitted to wear identification codes that were not unique to them. This made it difficult, if not impossible, for investigators to identify them. Police were, understandably, concerned about officers becoming the victims of malicious doxxing. But, as the court pointed out, there was no need for personal information to be displayed. They only had to prominently wear a unique mark which would enable them to be easily traced. The court’s finding on the inadequacy of the complaints system generally, has far-reaching implications. The existing system lacks sufficient independence and does not enjoy public confidence. International experts advising the IPCC quit because they felt it did not have the powers it needed to investigate complaints properly. Hong Kong government loses legal battle over police complaints The Post has consistently called for an independent inquiry. The government must also now review the police complaints system and make reforms that will ensure it is truly independent and effective. Police faced many challenges in tackling the often violent civil unrest. But their public image has been severely damaged. Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung marked a year in the job this week by stressing a need to rebuild the reputation of the force. That will require greater transparency and accountability. Hong Kong needs to bridge political divisions and heal the wounds caused by the traumatic events of last year. The process cannot be completed until the question of police accountability has been tackled. The court’s ruling should be a catalyst for change.