Reporter slams Hong Kong police complaints office after claims he was beaten by officers rejected despite video footage of incident
Journalist claimed two to three officers grabbed him by throat as they pushed him off bus during Mong Kok riot and he was then kicked and hit by others
The Hong Kong Police Force’s complaints division has rejected allegations by a journalist that he was assaulted by several officers during the Mong Kok riot of February 2016.
After almost 2½ years of internal investigations, the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) last Friday told the reporter, surnamed Tang, there was insufficient evidence to identify officers or to conclude he was attacked on a bus as he had claimed.
In response, Tang called the result “puzzling and unacceptable”, noting news groups had recorded footage of officers attacking him.
“I will ask them to review my case again and will consider pursuing legal action against the police,” he said.
Tang, who worked for the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao at the time, was reporting on the violence that broke out during the Lunar New Year, when a hawker control operation in one of the city’s most popular shopping districts turned ugly, with clashes between protesters and police.
Hong Kong courts have since convicted 28 people on charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal damage, assaulting police and arson.
According to Tang’s complaints, he was watching the riot from the upper deck of a bus parked in Mong Kok at about 3.30am on February 9, 2016. He said two to three officers grabbed him by the throat as they pushed him off the bus. He was then kicked and hit with a hard object by six to eight officers.
Footage taken by news website Apple Daily showed Tang being forced onto the ground, as officers armed with batons and riot shields beat him.
Tang said he had shouted repeatedly that he was a journalist and should not be attacked.
In a letter to Tang, CAPO said there was “some evidence” in regard to his second complaint about being kicked but it was inconclusive. His first complaint that officers grabbed his throat was rejected as “not pursuable” as police could not identify those involved.
A separate complaint regarding the force’s failure to cooperate with the press was also rejected.
The force’s watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), agreed with the findings.
However, human rights group Civil Rights Observer said the findings set a bad precedent as police officers could escape legal sanctions if they concealed their identity. It said the force should be accountable for any abuse.
Ming Pao Staff Association also expressed anger over CAPO’s findings and questioned whether police had the will to identify officers in the footage.
It urged the force and the IPCC to revisit the case, and said it would study possible legal action.
Ming Pao described the findings as “deeply regrettable” and called on police to carry out a more thorough investigation.