Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong are under a sustained attack, Amnesty International said, after police informed several leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement today that they will face charges.
The news came a day after Carrie Lam was selected as the city's new chief executive by a 1,200-strong committee largely made of political appointees handpicked by Beijing. Those informed by police that they will face public order charges include student leaders Tommy Cheung and Chung Yiu-wa, legislators Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun and Professor Benny Tai, Professor Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, who launched the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign.
In response Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, commented:
"The ongoing targeting of prominent figures of the Umbrella Movement is a blow to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong. This vindictiveness shows contempt for well-established freedoms in Hong Kong and will only lead to more political tensions.
The Hong Kong authorities’ prosecution of three pro-democracy student leaders sends a chilling warning for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the city, Amnesty International said today, after Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law were found guilty for their roles in events that triggered 2014’s Umbrella Movement.
The city’s Eastern Magistrates’ Court found Joshua Wong and Alex Chow guilty of “taking part in an unlawful assembly”. Joshua Wong was acquitted on a second charge of “inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly”, but Nathan Law was found guilty on the same charge. Sentencing was adjourned until 15 August.
“The prosecution of student leaders on vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“The continued persecution of prominent figures of the Umbrella Movement is a blow to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.”
The guilty verdict against a Hong Kong employer for the extreme abuse she inflicted on two migrant domestic workers must act as a wake-up call for the authorities to stop the widespread exploitation of tens of thousands of women, said Amnesty International.
Law Wan-tung was found guilty by the District Court in Hong Kong of multiple counts of abuse against Indonesians Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and Tutik Lestari Ningsih. She was found not guilty of two charges of abuse and threatening behaviour against another Indonesian woman, Nurhasanah.
Law is due to be sentenced on 27 February and could face a lengthy prison term.
“The guilty verdict is a damning indictment of the government’s failure to reform the system that traps women in a cycle of abuse and exploitation,” said Norma Kang Muico, Asia-Pacific Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The Hong Kong authorities can no longer bury their heads in the sand and dismiss horrific abuses as isolated incidents. Concrete action to end laws and regulations that foster such horrific abuse is long overdue.”
With thousands of pro-democracy protesters expected to take to Hong Kong’s streets again over the weekend, the city’s police chief must urgently stamp out any arbitrary and excessive use of force by police officers, Amnesty International said.
The past two days have seen major police operations to disperse protesters from the Mong Kok area of the city marred by incidents of unjustifiable force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.
“The heavy-handed approach by police violates the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and risks exacerbating an already tense situation,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“Police Commissioner Andy Tsang must not turn a blind eye to the use of excessive force by his officers. There needs to be an unequivocal message from the top that any officer violating human rights will be held to account.”
Last month Yvonne Leung Lai Kwong, a 21-year-old undergraduate and student union president, found herself at the forefront of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. She gives her insight into the largely youthful protests, which at their peak saw up to 100,000 people take to the streets.
I wouldn’t say I am an organizer of the demonstrations – there is no one organizer here. But young people and students have definitely been the primary initiators.
I fell into this role quite unexpectedly. I first ran for students’ union president eight months ago with the intention of bringing students together and contributing where I was needed. I never expected events to unfold as they have.
Hong Kong police officers involved in the beating and kicking of a detained pro-democracy protester on Wednesday must face justice, Amnesty International said.
Local TV news footage shows social worker Ken Tsang Kin Chiu being taken away by six police officers in the early hours of Wednesday, his hands tied behind his back. The police officers then appear to carry Tsang around a corner and put him on the ground. The publicly available video shows that some officers proceed repeatedly to kick and punch Tsang, who is seen curled-up in a ball, while other police officers stood by.
Amnesty International spoke to a lawyer assisting Tsang who confirmed the details of the attack, and that the victim was taken by police to a local hospital to receive medical treatment. Police have since said they will conduct an investigation into the incident.
“This appears to be a vicious attack against a detained man who posed no threat to the police. Any investigation into this incident must be carried out promptly and all individuals involved in unlawful acts must be prosecuted,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s police failed in their duty to protect hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy protesters from attacks by counter demonstrators on Friday evening, Amnesty International said.
Women and girls were among those targeted, including incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation, as counter-demonstrators clashed with pro-democracy protesters in the Mongkok and Causeway Bay areas of Hong Kong on Friday evening.
"The police inaction tonight is shameful. The authorities have failed in their duty to protect peaceful protesters who came under attack," said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
"There has been a heavy police presence during the past week, but their failure tonight risks fuelling an increasingly volatile situation."
Amnesty International has first-hand witness accounts of women being physically attacked and threatened, while police stood by and did nothing.
The quick use of pepper spray and arrests by Hong Kong police during pro-democracy demonstrations last night and today has renewed fears the authorities will fail to uphold the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression at larger protests planned for next week, Amnesty International said.
On Friday night, a week-long sit-in by thousands of students culminated in a group of protesters entering the fenced-off Civic Square in front of the local government’s headquarters, while thousands continued to demonstrate outside.
The police reacted by using pepper spray inside and outside of the square and carrying out arrests. Around 70 people remained boxed-in by police in the square overnight and were arrested on Saturday afternoon.
"The police response to events on Friday night is a disturbing sign that the Hong Kong authorities will take a tough stance against any peaceful protest blocking the financial district," said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
.Today an international petition with over 100,000 signatures was delivered to the Government of Hong Kong calling for an end to the exploitation of migrant domestic workers. The petition, coming just days before the start of the high profile trial of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s employer was signed by 103,307 individuals from over 160 countries.
In response to the petition Erwiana said, “I don’t want anyone else to experience the abuse I did. That is why I support this call for the government of Hong Kong to end exploitation of migrant domestic workers. I hope that in the future women can come here and work without fear of abuse, with fair pay and equaltreatment. ”
Organized by Amnesty International, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, International Domestic Workers Federation and Walk Free, the petition calls on the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to take urgent steps to enhance the protection of migrant domestic workers in the territory. These steps include:
Released 23.01 GMT on Wednesday 20 November 2013
Thousands of Indonesian women trafficked to Hong Kong risk slavery-like conditions as domestic workers, with both governments failing to protect them from widespread abuse and exploitation, said Amnesty International.
A new report, Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments, exposes how Indonesian recruitment agencies and placement agents in Hong Kong traffic Indonesian women for exploitation and forced labour. Abuses include restrictions on freedom of movement, physical and sexual violence, lack of food, and excessive and exploitative hours.
“From the moment the women are tricked into signing up for work in Hong Kong, they are trapped in a cycle of exploitation with cases that amount to modern-day slavery,” said Norma Kang Muico, Asia-Pacific Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
The findings are based on in-depth interviews with 97 Indonesian migrant domestic workers and supported by a survey of nearly 1,000 women by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union.