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    June 04, 2020

    Responding to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passing a law that makes it illegal to insult China’s national anthem, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, Joshua Rosenzweig, said: 

    “People who ‘insult’ China’s national anthem could now be jailed for up to three years. But today the Hong Kong authorities have again insulted the right to freedom of expression in their latest attempt to criminalize peaceful dissent.

    “People’s right to express their different feelings about national anthems and other state symbols is well protected by international human rights law. This law’s broad and subjective provisions leave it open to wide interpretation and abuse.

    “The passing of this odious bill is an ominous sign for the future of human rights in Hong Kong. With China’s ruthless national security law looming, the city’s rights and freedoms are under greater threat than ever before.”

    Background

    June 01, 2020

    Responding to the authorities’ banning of Hong Kong’s annual June Fourth Tiananmen anniversary vigil for the first time in 30 years due to COVID-19 social distancing measures, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and South East Asia, Joshua Rosenzweig, said:   

    “COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression. Hong Kong authorities should help facilitate a socially distanced Tiananmen vigil rather than outright banning it. On June Fourth, of all days, people in Hong Kong must be allowed to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

    “In recent weeks we have seen the Hong Kong police repeatedly clamp down on peaceful protests with arbitrary mass arrests and excessive force – including the use of tear gas and pepper pellets. By deeming this important memorial event ‘illegal’, the police have again needlessly exacerbated rising tensions when thousands of people simply want to light a candle for those who lost their lives during the horrific events of 4 June, 1989.

    May 27, 2020

    Responding to the Hong Kong police’s heavy-handed response to today’s protests against the proposed national anthem and national security laws, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and South East Asia Joshua Rosenzweig said:

    “Today’s excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the police to disperse protesters once again exposes the authorities’ utter disregard for human rights on the streets of Hong Kong. Mass arrests in entirely peaceful assemblies show that the Hong Kong government is targeting anyone exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    “As rights in Hong Kong come under ever increasing threat, the national anthem bill is another attempt to make peaceful dissent a crime in the city. Under this vaguely worded and repressive law, people in Hong Kong could face up to three years in prison if they are deemed to have ‘insulted’ or ‘misused’ China’s national anthem.

    April 22, 2020

    Martin Lee is one of 15 activists arrested on 18 April. Photo via Wikipedia.org

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 60/20 HERE

    Fifteen prominent pro-democracy leaders and activists were arrested on 18 April 2020 for their role in organizing and joining “unauthorized assemblies” more than six months prior. This is the most recent example of police relying on the vague Public Order Ordinance, frequently used in 2019 to prohibit and cancel largely peaceful protests. These arrests are another heavy blow to the already curtailed freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.

    April 09, 2020

    Responding to a Hong Kong appeal court ruling that partially reinstates the government’s mask ban, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong Man-Kei Tam said:

    “Today’s ruling means Hong Kong’s repressive mask ban is only partially revoked. Authorities will be able to target people for wearing masks in any protest that is not ‘authorized’. In the past few months, we have seen police imposing excessive restrictions on freedom of assembly, cracking down on entirely peaceful protests and declaring them unlawful.

    “At a time when the vast majority of Hong Kongers wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the idea of maintaining this ban is absurd, not to mention a potential threat to public health.

    “Today’s ruling also revives the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), which essentially provides a blank cheque for the government to restrict human rights without any conditions or safeguards.

    March 04, 2020

    An independent investigation into police violence during the Hong Kong protests is essential to preventing unrest from reigniting in the city and rebuilding public trust, Amnesty International said in a new briefing released today. 

    “Missing truth, missing justice” examines the insurmountable defects of the Hong Kong police’s accountability mechanisms. The briefing sets out the need for establishing an independent commission of inquiry to investigate widespread human rights violations that occurred during the mass protests which erupted last year.

    “Each passing day that the Hong Kong government stubbornly resists establishing an independent inquiry adds to the accountability vacuum and erodes public trust further,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director.

    “Hong Kong’s existing police complaint system is not fit for purpose. No institution should be trusted to investigate itself – the police is accountable to the public.

    December 20, 2019

    Content warning: Sexual violence

    Scenes of protesters wading through clouds of tear gas or clashing with riot police have become sadly familiar in Hong Kong. But battles in the streets aren’t the only thing spreading fear among protesters.

    Allegations of the sexual harassment and assault of protesters have been circulating since Hong Kong’s current protest movement began. There have been reports of assault in police stations, footage of police exposing women’s underwear during arrest and allegations of humiliating and unnecessary strip searches.

    November 25, 2019

    University student Sonia Ng is the only protester who has accused the Hong Kong police of sexual assault using her real name. Others have spoken out on condition of anonymity, alleging that they were inappropriately groped or strip-searched during arrest or detention. Ng told a press conference that a police officer hit her breasts while she was in detention after being arrested at a protest. She later told a packed university hall, “I am not the only one,” alleging that many other protesters had been subjected to different forms of sexual violence. She then removed her face mask to reveal her identity. Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police.

    Here is Sonia’s story in her own words:

    Before this movement, I hated Hong Kong. I used to feel like I didn’t have much in common with people here and the lack of progress in the fight for democracy made me feel like we were weak.

    November 18, 2019

    Following the most violent confrontations of the Hong Kong protests so far during a police siege at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong Man-Kei Tam said:

    “By laying siege to Polytechnic University and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people trying to flee, the Hong Kong Police are yet again fanning the flames of violence when they should be trying to defuse it.

    “It is the police’s responsibility to de-escalate this situation, but instead of assisting injured protesters trapped at the University they are unlawfully arresting the medics attempting to treat the wounded.

    “The increasingly violent nature of the Hong Kong protests and the resultant injuries to bystanders and others is alarming, but the heavy-handed police response to largely peaceful demonstrations over the past months is the main cause of this escalation. Their threat today that protesters could face live ammunition is a further aggressive move that heightens the risk of tragedy on the streets.

    October 18, 2019

    Responding to the Hong Kong High Court’s judgment against “MK”, a woman who had filed a lawsuit claiming that Hong Kong law breached her rights to privacy and equality by failing to recognize same-sex unions, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:

    “This judgment is a bitter blow to the LGBTI communities in Hong Kong, who cannot acquire the same status and recognition, and access the same rights, as opposite-sex couples due to outdated laws that refuse to recognize same-sex unions. MK’s decision to challenge this discrimination in court was an opportunity for Hong Kong to break away from the injustices of the past and start shaping a more fair and equal society.

    October 04, 2019

    The Hong Kong government announced in a press conference today that it will invoke a colonial-era law, the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, in order to ban face coverings at public gatherings. The law also grants the Hong Kong government sweeping powers relating to detention and to restriction of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  

    Joshua Rosenzweig, Head of Amnesty International’s East Asia Regional Office, said: 

    “This is yet another attempt by the Hong Kong government to deter protesters, who have so far been undaunted by unnecessary and excessive use of force and the threat of prosecution, from exercising their rights.

    “It is thanks to the climate of fear Hong Kong authorities have created that protesters feel the need to wear masks in the first place. This ban is especially worrying in a context where protesters fear arbitrary arrest, surveillance and the indiscriminate use of tear gas and other projectiles.  

    October 01, 2019

    In response to the shooting of a protester by police in Hong Kong during demonstrations marking China’s National Day, leaving him in a critical condition in hospital, the Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong Man-Kei Tam said:

    “The shooting of a protester marks an alarming development in the Hong Kong police’s response to protests. The Hong Kong authorities must launch a prompt and effective investigation into the sequence of events that left a teenager fighting for his life in hospital. Police should only use lethal force in response to an imminent threat of death or serious injury and only as a last resort. 

    “We are urging the Hong Kong authorities to urgently review their approach in policing the protests in order to de-escalate the situation and prevent more lives being put at risk.” 

    Amnesty International analyzed videos of the shooting and pinpointed the location as Hau Tei Square in Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan area. In a short video statement the Hong Kong Police Force defended the shooting by stating that the officer felt his life was under threat: 

    September 23, 2019

    The proposed Extradition Bill was the latest manifestation of a steady erosion of human rights in Hong Kong, Amnesty International said today, as it released a report detailing how the creeping influence of Beijing’s policies and rhetoric on “national security” has resulted in growing numbers of local activists and journalists being censored, prosecuted and harassed in recent years. 

    In the report, Beijing’s Red Line in Hong Kong, the organization highlights how increasing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly culminated in this summer’s protests.  

    “The steady erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong began long before the announcement of the Extradition Bill. The Chinese authorities, in tandem with the Hong Kong leadership, have for years been chipping away at the special status that Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy regarding the protection of human rights,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, Head of Amnesty International’s East Asia Regional Office. 

    September 20, 2019

    A new Amnesty International field investigation has documented an alarming pattern of the Hong Kong Police Force deploying reckless and indiscriminate tactics, including while arresting people at protests, as well as exclusive evidence of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

    After interviewing nearly two dozen arrested persons and gathering corroborating evidence and testimonies from lawyers, health workers and others, the organization is demanding a prompt and independent investigation into the violations, which appear to have escalated in severity since the mass protests began in June. 

    “The Hong Kong police’s heavy-handed crowd-control response on the streets has been livestreamed for the world to see. Much less visible is the plethora of police abuses against protesters that take place out of sight,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at Amnesty International.

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