BHRC has issued a statement raising serious concern about the response by Hong Kong authorities to ongoing protests in Hong Kong, in particular over credible reports of police brutality, violence against protestors and mass arrests of protestors, as well as the Hong Kong Government’s failure to order a full and transparent inquiry into police abuse.
Recently, Hong Kong has seen a significant period of protest since the Hong Kong government’s refusal to make important changes to the flawed extradition bill. Protesters and witnesses have reported the use of “non-lethal weapons” in a way that directly endangers the lives and safety of protestors, including the firing of tear gas directly at protestors or into closed areas and the use of rubber bullets. There are also reports that hundreds of protestors have been arrested in recent months, which appear to be disproportionate and political in nature. Despite Hong Kong’s own admission of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police in addressing the protests, no proper investigation into excessive force has taken place and calls from the international community, including the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, have been rejected.
In its statement BHRC highlights Hong Kong’s domestic and international human rights obligations, including the protection of freedom of speech and assembly, and the need to follow international human rights norms, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders.
BHRC urges the Hong Kong authorities to take urgent steps to protect the fundamental rights of peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, which are cornerstones of a democratic society, and to ensure that attempts to ensure public order comply fully with international law. BHRC also calls on the authorities to discontinue its politicised and targeted prosecutions immediately and urges the Hong Kong government instead to engage in constructive dialogue with the leaders of the protest movement to foster a climate in which their legitimate concerns over democracy and human rights can be met.
BHRC Chair Schona Jolly QC said:
“Hong Kong residents have the same right to peaceful assembly and protest as citizens of other democracies. Their rights under international law are protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law which remains in place until 2047. They have the right to seek redress and open dialogue with the Hong Kong authorities in a peaceful manner, which the overwhelming majority of residents have sought to do. Instead, they have been subject to excessive police force amidst credible and widespread reports of police brutality. The Hong Kong government must take immediate steps to launch an independent and impartial investigation into police tactics and action, and commit immediately and publicly to protecting the fundamental human rights of the people of Hong Kong.”