LAW ENFORCEMENT

Protester, 19, claims police officers beat her after arrest on Christmas Eve

Allegations reawaken concerns that complaints against the force are not dealt with properly, and victims see official channels as useless

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 December, 2014, 2:54am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 December, 2014, 8:02am

A 19-year-old pro-democracy activist has alleged plain-clothes officers slapped her in the head until she bled as she was driven to the Mong Kok police station just after midnight on Christmas Eve.

Amy But Wai-fan told her story to the media yesterday, saying she had decided not to report the case to the Complaints Against Police Office (Capo) - the force's internal investigation unit - as she had "no confidence" in it.

Her ear was still red and there was a bruise on her left arm.

But said she was one of 500 people on a "shopping tour" protest - in which crowds walk slowly to disrupt commercial areas - on Shantung Street. She was taken to a police car by five plain-clothes officers after she failed to show her identity card. She alleges the officers assaulted her in the car on the way to the station.

"They slapped me three or four times … until my ear bled," she said. "When I asked for their officer numbers, they threatened to charge me with police assault and obstructing police work if I made a complaint."

The teenager is not alone in her reluctance to report such cases to the police complaints unit, said Chan Shu-fai, of the Civil Human Rights Front. Chan said he had received more than 30 complaints of police abuse since the Occupy protest sites were cleared in mid-December.

He said people tended not to complain to Capo. "Some are concerned with the time it will take, and they think it will be useless anyway," Chan said. "Others worry about being charged with offences such as illegal assembly if they complain about abuse."

But cases are not followed up by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) - an independent body that monitors and reviews police complaints - if they are not lodged with Capo.

"The council cannot receive complaints independently from the public. Capo must be involved first," he said. "The problem is, people don't trust Capo."

There is also a lack of faith in the IPCC because its members are appointed by the chief executive, said the Democratic Party's Helena Wong Pik-wan.

Functional constituency lawmakers Christopher Cheung Wah-fung and Tony Tse Wai-chuen will serve as vice-chairmen of the IPCC from next year. Six new members have been appointed for the next two-year term, and none of them appear to be pan-democrats, Wong said.

She said the law governing the watchdog's composition and powers should be reviewed.

A police spokesman said the complaints office would handle any cases fairly and in accordance with procedures.

Some 49 protesters were arrested in clashes over the Christmas holidays. Capo had received 1,972 Occupy-related complaints up to December 15 - with 106 cases reportable. The latest figure was not available yesterday.

Seven police officers arrested for allegedly beating Civic Party activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu in Admiralty in October are on bail and must report back this month.