Hong Kong: Impotent and biased IPCC report into protests fails to bring justice any closer

In response to the Hong Kong Independent Police Complaint Council (IPCC) releasing a so-called fact-finding report on incidents during protests between June 2019 to March 2020 and the response from the Chief Executive, the Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, Man-Kei Tam, said:

“This misleading report makes no attempt to establish accountability for the gross police misconduct seen on the streets since last summer. It also demonstrates the Hong Kong government’s effective refusal to address the widespread and systemic human rights violations that have taken place during protests since last June.

“While admitting there was ‘room for improvement’ for the police handling of protests and other public incidents, the report fails to bring justice any closer for the repressive and unprofessional police operations seen during the protests.

“The report has no impartiality, and the IPCC has no power to conduct a truly independent investigation. In fact, this report fails miserably to even ‘provide a big picture’. The IPCC disproportionately focused on the ‘hatred and violence targeting police’ by a small section of the protesters. The report also makes an alarming claim of the advent of terrorism in the city without any substantial support. The government must not use counter terrorism as an excuse for unnecessary and excessive use of force and other systemic violations of human rights by law enforcement.

“Carrie Lam has given this report her full support and outright refuses to establish a Commission of Inquiry. In doing so, she continues to ignore the repeated calls from civil society, the United Nations and others in the international community for a genuinely independent investigation into the excessive use of force by the police during the protests.

“The fresh crackdown on recent protests that were entirely peaceful shows that the government believes it can silence dissent by taking an even tougher approach to curtailing freedom of expression and assembly.

“Instead of trying to whitewash the human rights violations committed by the police during the protests, the Hong Kong government must immediately set up a Commission of Inquiry in line with international standards to investigate them.

“This biased report will only fuel even more public anger. An independent investigation is the crucial first step to restoring public trust and breaking the cycle of violence.”


The IPCC decided in July 2019 to conduct a fact-finding study into several public order events connected to the protests. However, the IPCC does not have its own investigative powers, such as the power to subpoena documents or summon witnesses. A foreign expert panel hired to help with this study stepped down in December 2019, saying that the IPCC lacked the investigative powers and capabilities necessary to “begin to meet the standards citizens of Hong Kong would likely require of a police watchdog operating in a society that values freedoms and rights.”

In a recent judicial review in which an activist challenged the IPCC’s mandate to investigate the protests, the IPCC representative made it clear that the study was not an investigation and would not reach any conclusions related to complaints filed against the police.

The UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have each repeatedly commented on the limitations of the IPCC in fulfilling the Hong Kong government’s obligation to effectively investigate human rights violations.

Amnesty International has documented unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police throughout the Hong Kong protests, including dangerous use of lethal weapons. There is also evidence of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

A briefing published by Amnesty International in March set out the necessity and the international legal framework for establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the widespread human rights violations related to the protests.