New Hong Kong police chief says suspects have rights as he is drawn into row over identity parade

New commissioner drawn into row over identity parade in case involving attack on TVB reporter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 3:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 8:44pm

Hong Kong's new police chief yesterday said suspects' rights should be respected as it emerged that Occupy opponents arrested for allegedly assaulting a TVB reporter last year were allowed to wear shower caps and masks at two identity parades.

Speaking on his first day on the job, Stephen Lo Wai-chung also listed cybercrime and terrorism as two priorities although he said there was no intelligence indicating the city faced any imminent terrorist threat.

But Lo faced questions on the force's decision to scrap an investigation into an October 25 attack on a TVB reporter whose tie was yanked while covering a pro-police rally in Tsim Sha Tsui.

A Chinese-language newspaper yesterday reported that the male reporter was asked to identify the suspect from a group of seven or eight people who all wore shower caps and masks, and to identify another suspect from a group where everyone wore shower caps.

None of the three suspects wore a mask or cap when the alleged assault took place.

The report said the arrangement was agreed after the chief inspector in charge of the parade granted the demands of two of the three suspects that they needed to cover easily recognisable facial features. None wore masks in the ID parade for the last suspect.

The reporter's complaint about the arrangement went unheeded, the story said, and the inspector explained that it was allowed to "protect suspect's facial features".

Asked if such an arrangement was fair, Lo said, without commenting on the individual case, that suspects had the right to demand what to wear or how to present themselves during a parade, as long as the chief inspector in charge approved.

"If such requests were not granted, police might lose the case in court as the defendant might say the ID parade was not conducted in a fair manner," Lo said. "We can't conclude whether it is appropriate or not without looking at the unique circumstances in each case."

Speaking from his own experience, Lo said he once had a suspect whose hair was dyed gold. He granted the request to have all the ID parade participants wear caps as there were no other people available to take part in the parade who had dyed hair.

On his priorities in office, Lo said cybercrime and the threat of terrorism on a global scale were of particular concern.

The force would step up its training and beef up its recently upgraded 180-strong cybercrime investigation bureau in response to a surge in cybercrime cases, he said.

While no intelligence indicated the city was under an immediate threat of terrorist attacks, intelligence exchanges and collaboration with overseas and mainland counterparts will be a focus in the force's anti-terrorism efforts, he said.

Lo yesterday said police were now continuing with their investigation into the assault case.

However, the force was previously accused of ignoring the advice of the Department of Justice when it stopped the investigations into the TVB reporter assault case and another alleged assault involving a female RTHK reporter who was covering the same anti-Occupy rally last year.

Police resumed investigating the RTHK case after new evidence emerged, Lo added. No suspect was arrested and therefore no identity parade was conducted for the RTHK case.