A pro-democracy political party has accused Hong Kong police of torturing an elderly suspect by smearing his face with a urine-soaked cloth and punching him repeatedly in the genitals, among other things, while the man was tied to a hospital bed.
The man in question, a 62-year-old surnamed Chung, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer at about 11pm on June 25 after allegedly getting into a drunken fight in Sheung Shui. When police arrived at the scene, he reportedly yelled “dirty cops” or “black cops” — increasingly common insults for the force amid Hong Kong’s ongoing protest movement — before allegedly assaulting an officer.
After his arrest, Chung was sent to North District Hospital to recover, and was tied to a hospital bed and put in a single room as he was behaving erratically.
CCTV footage from inside the room, played for journalists today at a Democratic Party press conference, shows two uniformed police officers enter Chung’s room in the wee hours of June 26 and begin to assault him while he’s tied to the bed. (The footage — which some readers may find upsetting — begins around the 9:30 mark in the video below.)
The time stamp on the footage says the assault began at around 2:25am and ended at about 2:47am. Chung was released on the evening of June 26.
The video shows the officers using a police baton to prod Chung’s genitals, punching him repeatedly in the crotch and abdomen, shoving their batons in his mouth, twisting his wrist, flashing a strobe light in his eyes, and rubbing his face with what Chung’s children later said was a piece of clothing soaked in his own urine.
At certain points in the video, a third police officer can be seen entering and leaving the room, but doesn’t take part in the assault.
CCTV footage of @hkpoliceforce assaulting a detained and strapped detainee in a hospital ward, including punching his crotch several times. @HKDemocrats lawmaker LAM Cheuk Ting had a presser this morning with the victim's family members making public this scary scenes pic.twitter.com/cqwiOacMgC
— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) August 20, 2019
Chung’s two sons attended this morning’s press conference, where they said their father had wet himself because he was not allowed to use the toilet.
“They wanted him to drink his own urine, that’s what they told him,” the youngest son said, adding that his father said the officers threatened him and his family members, saying they knew their full names and addresses.
The eldest son even accused the officers of planning the assault beforehand, adding that the officers can be seen wearing surgical gloves throughout the ordeal.
The youngest son said that on top of the physical injuries their dad sustained — which included bruises and a broken right-hand ring finger — the incident affected him psychologically as well.
Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting (second left) & the victim’s two sons (right) say the sons’ father had a fractured right ring finger. The youngest Chung said he’s so angry that “police is above the law. Can we arrest these abnormal officers & put them in jail?” pic.twitter.com/ptHTPqJV1v
— Damon Pang (@damon_pang) August 20, 2019
“After he came out of the hospital, the relationship between my parents got worse. My mom is unable to sleep at night, and he’s too scared to go out because the officers revealed they knew our full names and addresses,” he said.
The youngest Chung said that they asked Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting for help as they felt they had no other choice, and didn’t feel confident that police would handle their complaint properly. Lam told reporters that after being approached by the family, he and his colleagues had been lobbying the Hospital Authority for footage from the ward for the past two months, but only got the footage last week
Although Chung’s arrest was not related to the city’s long-running pro-democracy protest movement, police have come under intense fire in recent weeks for alleged brutality in dealing with demonstrators. Lam today expressed concerns that those who were arrested for taking part in the demonstrations may also have been subjected to similar treatment or worse by police officers.
Lam accused the officers of abusing their power, saying it was “extremely disgraceful and shameful for any police officer to commit the offense of torturing.”
Lam described the incident as “one of the darkest moments in the history of Hong Kong police,” and urged Police Commissioner Stephen Lo to suspend the officers involved and carry out an independent investigation. He also encouraged Lo to bring criminal charges against the men, accusing them of misconduct in public office and torture, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Calling the incident a “serious scandal,” Lam said it raised questions as to whether the behavior on display was “just the tip of the iceberg, and the other arrestees in recent months may be tortured by other police officers.”
“I urge all the police officers to learn a painful lesson from this case: stop your colleagues’ or your own brutality at once.”
He added that he and the family would be reporting the incident to police headquarters today, and that Chung remembered the police identification number of one of the officers.
With public anger towards the police force at what is likely an all-time high over their increasingly heavy-handed crowd control tactics, pro-democracy protesters have included an independent investigation into the police as one of their key demands.
However, in her weekly press briefing this morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam once again dismissed calls for an independent probe, repeating that the Independent Police Complaints Council — which is staffed by appointees of the chief executive — was capable of dealing with alleged misconduct.
Lam also pledged to expand the time frame being examined by the IPCC to include more recent events — including police’s failure to respond to attacks on protesters by pro-Beijing thugs in Yuen Long — and to enlist the help of foreign experts in the investigation.
While Lam said she was taking steps to initiate a “dialogue” with protesters, she did not specify with whom, and yet again refused to substantively engage with protesters’ other demands.