Hospital warning signs cast doubt on HK police claims over reasons for delay in investigating assault complaint against officers

22-Aug-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A claim by Hong Kong police to explain delays in investigating two officers caught on camera beating a handcuffed suspect in a city hospital has been called into question, after the Post found signs warning of 24-hour video surveillance on site.

The incident involving a 62-year-old man, surnamed Chung, happened at around 2am on June 26 inside a “disturbed patient room” at North District Hospital, Sheung Shui.

It was revealed by security camera footage which was subsequently given to Chung’s family by the hospital. The footage showed two policemen repeatedly hitting Chung in the head, abdomen and genitals.

Chung had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting police the previous day in an incident not related to the ongoing protests sweeping the city. Three policemen were arrested in connection with the incident on Tuesday.

Police claimed to be unaware of the presence of security cameras inside the room where Chung, who was drunk at the time of his arrest, was taken, when asked why they waited almost two months to act after receiving a complaint from Chung’s family on June 27.

“Based on our understanding, there are usually no surveillance cameras in wards, so we will approach the hospital later on this,” said John Tse Chun-chung, chief superintendent of the force’s public relations branch.

On Tuesday, Tse also said it was the footage made public by Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting that triggered a criminal investigation and the arrest of three officers the same day.

But signs telling people they are under round-the-clock video surveillance could be seen on the doors of two disturbed patient rooms at the hospital in question on Tuesday night.

“This area is under 24-hour closed circuit television monitoring and recording for the purpose of ensuring your security and safety when visiting our premises,” the signs read.

They were spotted alongside labels that read, “Disturbed Patient Room”.

The two rooms, 7 and 7A, are metres away from a nursing station in an open area inside the emergency department, connected by a corridor.

According to Lam, who was given the footage and made it public on Tuesday, Chung was held in room 7A.

Multiple frontline medical sources confirmed security cameras are installed inside such rooms in public hospitals and the lenses are usually not hidden.

“The security cameras inside disturbed patient rooms are easy to spot,” a source said, adding security footage is shown on monitors at nursing stations.

A hospital spokesman said on Tuesday that Chung was guarded by police throughout his stay.

“Regular surveillance was conducted and no abnormal situation was noted by clinical staff,” he said.

The hospital has not yet explained why staff did not intervene or enter the room during the incident, which spanned more than 20 minutes.

The Post has asked the Hospital Authority, which manages all public hospitals in Hong Kong, for access to view the rooms in question. Police have also been contacted for comment.

According to Chung’s family, the man was arrested on June 25 and only brought up the alleged assault by policemen after he was released the following day.

Chung’s sons then filed a complaint with police on June 27, but were said to have not responded to requests to provide more information.

They are expected to file another complaint against police on Wednesday.

Lam said police had not taken the complaint from Chung’s sons seriously.

“The signs are clear, but I don’t know if the officers involved had noticed,” Lam said.

Lam also said police could have easily learned about the existence of the cameras.

“If we did not get the footage, police would have done nothing,” Lam said. “Whether there were security cameras or not, they should not have beaten someone up.”


Category: Hong Kong

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