Amnesty International has condemned the use of force against largely peaceful protesters by Hong Kong police – who used tear gas, guns firing bean bags and rubber bullets, batons and pepper spray – to disperse a demonstration against the extradition bill in central Hong Kong today.
Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“The ugly scenes of police using tear gas and pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters is a violation of international law.
“Police have a duty to maintain public order, but in doing so they may use force only when strictly necessary. Hong Kong’s police have today failed to live up to this standard.
“The police have taken advantage of the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority of peaceful protesters.
“Tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate, and can result in serious injury and even death. They should only ever be used in a targeted response to specific acts of violence and never to disperse peaceful protesters.
“This excessive response from police is fuelling tensions and is likely to contribute to worsening violence, rather than end it. We urge the Hong Kong police not to repeat such abuses against peaceful protesters, and instead ensure people can legitimately exercise their rights. We also remind police that using force against protesters already brought under control is unlawful.”
British-made tear gas likely used on protesters
Pictures shared on social media appear to show CS gas canisters fired at civilians during clashes in Hong Kong today have been produced by British defence contractor Chemring Defence, formerly known as PW Defence.
Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s Military, Security and Police Programme Director, said:
“Amnesty UK is extremely concerned that pictures appear to show that British-made tear gas is being used against peaceful protesters in Hong Kong.
“The use of tear gas against civilians is shocking, and we want the UK Government to prevent any further supplies of crowd control equipment supplied to Hong Kong that risks being used to threaten legitimate protests.
“The world is watching closely what is happening in Hong Kong, and we urge the authorities there to exercise restraint.”
Earlier today, thousands of protesters in Hong Kong took over streets around the city’s government headquarters to demand the authorities withdraw proposed amendments to the extradition law. Police started dispersing protesters in the afternoon, using tear gas and pepper spray, and in some instances guns firing bean bags and rubber bullets. Some protesters were taken away by the police.
While the afternoon saw increasing clashes between front-line police and protesters in some locations, the tear gas deployed by police affected areas far beyond those skirmishes, where no violence had taken place at all. Some escape routes had also been blocked off by police, limiting opportunities for demonstrators to leave the area.
The proposed law new extradition arrangements would have the effect of enabling the handover of persons in the territory of Hong Kong to mainland China. If enacted, this law would extend the ability of the mainland authorities to target critics, human rights activists, journalists, NGO workers and anyone else in Hong Kong. Amnesty Hong Kong recently joined more than 70 other NGOs in a joint letter to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, calling for the proposed extradition law amendments to be dropped because they pose a direct threat to human rights.