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Hong Kong: Evidence of police violence against protesters verified

    June 21, 2019
    • Amnesty International examined incidents of unnecessary and excessive use of force during 12 June protest
    • Restraint urged in policing of upcoming protests
    • Police must be held to account for unlawful use of force

    Hong Kong police must end the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters who have once again taken to the streets on Friday, Amnesty International said, as it published details of verified instances of unnecessary and excessive use of force by police on 12 June.

    Experts in policing and digital verification examined in detail footage of 14 incidents of apparent police violence. All verified incidents were filmed during the 12 June protest, which saw tens of thousands of people take part in a largely peaceful demonstration against the Hong Kong government’s proposed extradition bill.

    “The evidence of the unlawful use of force by police against peaceful protesters on 12 June is irrefutable. In the footage Amnesty has verified, police officers appear out of control, placing peaceful protesters who posed no threat in danger of serious injury,” said Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong. 

    “The Hong Kong authorities should send a clear message that these failures in policing will not be tolerated. A thorough, independent and effective investigation needs to take place and any officers found responsible must face justice, at any level of the chain of command.”

    The verified footage includes:

    -           The beating of subdued protesters by police officers;

    -           The firing of rubber bullets at a protester’s head, risking serious injury;

    -           Multiple rounds of tear gas fired against protesters who were trapped in a confined area with severely limited opportunities for escape;

    -           Aggressive police tactics against journalists.

    All of the examples Amnesty International verified are violations of international law and standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. The verified footage draws upon media coverage, as well as footage posted on social media.

    Amnesty International’s analysis unmistakably shows that Hong Kong police used the violent acts of a small minority on 12 June as a pretext to use unnecessary and excessive force against the vast majority of peaceful protesters. Tear gas, guns firing rubber bullets, pepper spray and batons were used to disperse the demonstration.

    Such “less lethal” weapons are usually classified as crowd-control devices, the use of which can result in serious injury and even death. Rubber bullets, pepper spray or batons should never be used for dispersal or directed at peaceful demonstrators or bystanders, but only used against persons engaged in violence.

    The deployment of excessively high numbers of police officers and visible heavy anti-riot equipment was clearly intended to intimidate protesters and is likely to have increased the tensions leading to violence. Instead, law enforcement officials must attempt non-violent means first in the policing of assemblies, including dialogue, de-escalation and negotiation, before resorting to any use of force.

    With further protests underway on Friday in near government and police headquarters, Man-kei Tam said: “While there is no doubt police are under intense pressure during large-scale protests, there can be no excuses for the excessive use of force witnessed last Wednesday. We urge the police to learn from these serious mistakes and ensure there is no repeat in upcoming demonstrations. There needs to be a sea-change in approach in the policing of assemblies in Hong Kong, away from one using heavy-handed tactics to one of protecting and facilitating peaceful assemblies.”

    Notes to editors

    Amnesty International’s team in Hong Kong continue to monitor the ongoing protests.

    Please contact Lucy Scholey, Media Officer, 613-744-7667 ext 236 lscholey@amnesty.ca