The chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has defended the internal police unit that handles complaints against officers, saying it has "independent characteristics" and operates differently from the rest of the force.
Anthony Neoh's comments came after the High Court ruled that the Complaints Against Police Office (Capo) cannot be regarded as independent of the force, and it is staffed by career police officers who eventually return to other departments.
Judge Anderson Chow said in a judgement that the way grievances against police officers are dealt with by Capo and the IPCC breaches Hong Kong's Bill of Rights.
But Anthony Neoh, who chairs the IPCC, appeared to disagree with the ruling.
"Capo's work procedures, from what we can see, are very different from other operational units," Neoh said.
"The office has its own independent characteristics within the force," he said, adding that observers from the IPCC are also stringent in their monitoring work.
Chow had noted that the IPCC has no power to overturn Capo's decisions on complaints. But Neoh told reporters that his watchdog speaks up if it disagrees with the police unit and is able to take matters to the chief executive if it wishes.
Neoh also explained that Thursday's ruling would have no impact on the IPCC's work.
"We have to follow the law in our work, and the court did not quash the law so we have no choice but to act according to the legislation," he said, referring to the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance.
On the suggestion that the IPCC is toothless, Neoh said it would be up to Chief Executive Carrie Lam to decide if the body should be given independent investigative powers.
"In an ideal world, of course it's good to have independent investigations for everything," Neoh said, "but we're not in an ideal world."
Faced with persistent calls for an independent investigation into the police's handling of the recent unrest in Hong Kong, Lam has repeatedly insisted that the existing complaints mechanism is adequate. Critics, however, slammed an IPCC probe into some of the protest incidents as a whitewash.
IPCC chief backs police complaints unit
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