HONG KONG: Two police officers have been arrested after a video purportedly showing them assaulting a suspect on a hospital gurney went viral online, said the Hong Kong Police Force on Tuesday (Aug 20).
The video, which was reportedly taken from CCTV footage at North District Hospital in June, shows two uniformed officers repeatedly beating a man in the crotch and stomach, and flashing a torchlight in his eye.
There are no other people in the room as the officers take turns to abuse the patient over several minutes.
Police said the man was under arrest at the time.
North District Hospital (NDH) confirmed on Tuesday in a press statement that the man was escorted by the police when he arrived at the hospital's Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) on Jun 25.
It added the man was "unstable" and his "irritated behaviour" had affected other A&E patients. As a result, he was moved to the "Disturbed Patient Room" for treatment and observation.
Regular surveillance was conducted and nothing unusual was noted by clinical staff on the day the incident reportedly happened, the hospital said, adding that the patient too had not made any complaints during hospitalisation.
On Jun 27, the hospital received an enquiry from a councillor regarding a patient being treated inappropriately by the police at the Disturbed Patient Room, the hospital said.
The following week, an application was made by the councillor for a copy of the CCTV footage from the councillor.
"The hospital processed the application and released the footage on Aug 12 in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and the Hospital Authority's relevant code of practice," it said.
The hospital has since been in touch with the patient via the councillor's office, who said that a "reporting to the police is not required".
'POLICE WILL NOT TOLERATE ILLEGAL ASSAULT'
"It is clear that the actions committed by the police officers concerned are unlawful," said Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung at a press conference on Tuesday. "Police will not tolerate any illegal assault or mistreatment of any person by any police officers."
He vowed a full, independent probe, insisting "police officers are never allowed to use abusive force for their own sake".
A criminal investigation has been opened in relation to the incident and the case has been taken over by the regional crime unit of the New Territory South.
"Police have given priority in investigating the case, bringing all those involved to justice," said Tse, adding that the two officers have been arrested for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
CLAIMS OF A COVER-UP "TOTALLY FALSE": POLICE
Police said they received a complaint from the victim's son in late June, but not from the victim himself.
"In response to the report, the Complaint Against Police Office made several attempts to reach him but all failed," said Tse.
Unable to take a statement from the victim, it had thus been "impractical" to carry on with the investigation.
Tuesday was the first time police had seen the video, the spokesperson said, adding that claims the police covered up the incident were "totally false".
"It's the first time the police have seen the video today," he said.
Hence, while the police had been informed about the incident, the allegation that police covered up the incident is "totally false".
The incident is likely to further fuel anger towards the stretched police force.
The hospital video surfaced as Hong Kong police continued to be battered by accusations of brutality following the 2014 Umbrella movement.
Protesters have staged weeks of rallies throughout the city, calling for an independent inquiry into the police response, which has included frequent use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
In June this year, a police press conference about the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong was attended by photo-journalists donning hard hats and gas masks - a symbolic protest against what they considered to be the excessive use of force by police during the unrest.