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Sunday, Jan 17, 2021

Pro-democracy lawmakers in push to invoke special Legco powers to launch investigation into alleged police brutality amid Hong Kong protests

Proposals up for debate in legislature, but pro-establishment camp, which holds majority of seats, expected to block motions. Among incidents cited are June 12 protest at Legco, July 21 Yuen Long attacks and August 31 Prince Edward MTR clash

Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong have proposed invoking special legislative powers to investigate alleged brutality in police’s handling of protests.

Three motions concerning a demonstration outside the Legislative Council on June 12 were put to a debate on Wednesday. The proposals are expected to be voted down by the pro-establishment camp when the discussion resumes on Thursday.

The June 12 protest saw tens of thousands of people occupying roads outside Legco in a bid to stop the second reading of the now-withdrawn extradition bill that sparked the months-long unrest.

Police fired hundreds of tear gas rounds, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to disperse the crowd and had declared the incident a riot.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who moved one of the motions on Wednesday, said police brutality had since become “a daily routine”.

“To this date, no police officers or government officials have been held accountable for the brutal crackdown of protests,” Tam said.

In his motion, Tam said police had shot protesters in the head with crowd-control weapons, and beat people with batons, as well as threatened reporters.

Tam pushed for a select committee under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance that would give lawmakers legal power to summon witnesses and request for documents.

The motion and two others from Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki and Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin required majority support from both Legco’s geographical and functional constituencies to pass. The pro-establishment bloc has the upper hand in both constituencies.

During the debate, security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said the motions were unnecessary.

“Some protesters’ actions were intimidating and provocative but police remained resilient and tolerant,” Lee said.

“We had no choice but to take appropriate and necessary force to avoid the deterioration of public order.”

Michael Tien Puk-sun was among two pro-establishment lawmakers who spoke in the debate. He did not back Tam’s motion, saying the wording was politically loaded.

But Tien, who said the investigation of the social unrest would be beyond Legco’s capacity, urged the government to set up a commission of inquiry with a wide scope covering police and protesters.

“I urge the government to be decisive and appoint reputable judges for an independent probe in times of calm,” Tien said.

The council will next debate the necessity of setting up an investigation into an attack on civilians and protesters by a white-clad mob at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21. Police were accused of showing up late to restore order as thugs with wooden sticks and metal rods assaulted people.

On Wednesday Legco was in the process of dealing with 17 members’ motions concerning various incidents and aspects of the ongoing anti-government protests, now into their seventh month.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had announced earlier that motions with similar subject matter would be sorted into five joint debates and votes.

Lawmakers will also vote on whether inquiries should be set up for a controversial police clearance operation inside Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, and the general policing of recent protests.

The August incident centred on chaotic scenes as radical anti-government protesters clashed with riot police at the station, which was forced to close down. Officers were accused of brutality but the force had rejected the claims, saying demonstrators had tried to blend in with regular commuters.

Two pro-establishment lawmakers on Wednesday also proposed a select committee to look into the “causes and consequences of the social conflicts or disturbances” sparked by the extradition bill.

Meanwhile, in a written reply to a question posed by information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok, security chief Lee said from June to the end of last month, police made 2,444 requests to internet service providers to disclose information for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime, and 643 requests to remove information for the same purpose.

He also revealed that 119 retired police officers were re-employed as of November 1, of which nearly half of them were constables.


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