HONG KONG -- Complaints against police in the city related to the Occupy Central protests have topped 1,300 -- a staggering rise in a city known for its low crime rate and generally harmonious relationship between the public and law enforcement.
Thirty-four of the cases have been passed over to Hong Kong's Independent Police Complaints Council, which has already started investigations into 15 of them, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal. To put the figure in context, there were 829 complaints filed against police in Hong Kong between 2011 and 2013, according to Asian politics blog EJInsight.
Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told lawmakers Wednesday, however, that 84 percent of police brutality complaints made against officers during that period were either withdrawn or deemed unfit to be pursued further, according to local broadcaster RTHK.
On Oct. 29, when the total number of complaints was just over 1,300, the city's security secretary outlined the categories of complaints filed against police officers as a result of the protests. They included 373 allegations of dereliction of duty, 806 allegations of abuse of power, 85 allegations of using excessive force, 25 allegations of misconduct, 11 allegations of discourtesy and two allegations of fabricating evidence, and one of rudeness, according to local publication LinePost.
Law enforcement in the semiautonomous Chinese city has struggled to cope with pro-democracy protesters, who have numbered up to 100,000 at times since demonstrations began on Sept. 28. Officers used tear gas and pepper spray against demonstrators on the first night of the protests, generating a furious reaction from local activists and international media. There have subsequently been sporadic violent clashes between police and protesters.
In addition, a video that emerged Oct. 15 showing a group of at least seven Hong Kong police officers beating protester Ken Tsang who had his hands cuffed behind his back, drew further outrage, prompting police to take a less confrontational approach to pro-democracy protesters.
Hong Kong is generally regarded as one of Asia's safest cities. The city of just under 7.2 million saw its highest number of homicides in over a decade in 2013, with 62 killings -- more than double its 2012 total. In comparison, New York, a city of 8.4 million, which is currently enjoying historically low rates of crime, including homicides, saw 333 murders in 2013, over five times the 2013 murder rate in Hong Kong.