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Kong, who cannot acquire the same status and recognition, and access the same rights, as opposite-sex couples due to outdated laws that refuse to recognize same-sex unions.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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
This summer, university and high school students in Hong Kong took to the streets in huge numbers. Braving arrest, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets, they have marched day after day to claim their rights.
On 4 September, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced her government’s formal withdrawal of the Extradition Bill that had sparked the protests. But this was only one of the “five demands” that have propelled the movement.
Protesters also want the government to retract its characterization of protests as “riots”; an independent investigation into use of force by police; and the unconditional release of everyone arrested in the context of protests. They also want political reform to ensure genuine universal suffrage - the ability to choose Hong Kong’s leaders themselves - as set under the city’s mini-Constitution, the Basic Law.
Here three students tell Amnesty International why they’re not backing down now.
Responding to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement of an official withdrawal of the Extradition Law Amendment Bill, Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“While the formal withdrawal of this dangerous bill, at long last, is welcome, this announcement cannot change the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have chosen to suppress protests in a grossly unlawful way that has seriously damaged the people’s trust and sense of legitimacy of the government.
"A thorough and independent investigation into unnecessary and excessive use of force by police at protests is now needed more than ever. We continue to call on all governments to suspend transfers of less lethal ‘crowd control’ equipment to Hong Kong until a full investigation is carried out and adequate safeguards are put in place.
In response to the latest clashes between police and protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday night – which included police storming the platform of Prince Edward metro station and beating people on a train - Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“Violence directed at police on Saturday is no excuse for officers to go on the rampage elsewhere. The horrifying scenes at Prince Edward metro station, which saw terrified bystanders caught up in the melee, fell far short of international policing standards.
“Video footage shows police stormed the train carriage and used batons to repeatedly beat people posing no threat whatsoever. Pepper spray was used in a carriage where people had no means to retreat, while medics were barred from entering the station. It is also alarming that a police officer appeared to aim a sponge grenade launcher at close range to those inside the train. Such unlawful police tactics continue to inflame rather than deescalate the situation.
Responding to the arrests in Hong Kong of prominent pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow on Friday morning and independence activist Andy Chan on Thursday night, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“The ludicrous dawn swoops by police to arrest Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong are an outrageous assault on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“This past week, we have seen scare tactics straight out of Beijing’s playbook: pro-democracy protest organizers attacked by thugs, prominent activists arrested after being snatched from their homes and streets, and a major rally planned for Saturday banned.
“The authorities must end this concerted attack on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. It is vital that the authorities send a clear message that people in Hong Kong can still enjoy these rights irrespective of their political beliefs.”
Alex Neve is the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada
The conflict between the people Hong Kong and their government has become increasingly alarming to watch. While no one wants to imagine an ongoing human rights crisis, there is already cause for grave concern. Amnesty International has repeatedly documented police abuses against protesters, including unlawful use of tear gas and rubber bullets. As hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to flood the streets, the world watches and wonders if various frightening and violent scenarios are forthcoming. Might Hong Kong conduct mass arrests? Might China intervene and take repressive action? Will refugees begin to flee from Hong Kong?
If so, will Canada be ready to step up and offer safety? We very much need to prepare.
In response to another march this afternoon where hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said:
“The people of Hong Kong have once again demonstrated their resolve by taking part in a peaceful demonstration against a proposed extradition bill.
“We saw how failure in political leadership inflamed tensions between protesters and the police in the past few months. The Hong Kong government must immediately withdraw the extradition law amendments, ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and allow an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police against protesters.”
Spokespeople are available in English and Cantonese. Please contact Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-744-7667 ext. 236 firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to police operations on Aug 11, where rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets were fired, Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said:
“Hong Kong police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in a way that have fallen short of international standards. Firing at retreating protesters in confined areas where they had little time to leave goes against the purported objective of dispersing a crowd.”
According to media reports, one protester suffered from a ruptured eye in Tsim Sha Tsui after being shot by what appeared to be a bean bag projectile from the police. Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and pepper ball projectiles were fired within a short range inside a train station in Kwai Fong and Taikoo against protesters, sometimes aiming at their heads and upper bodies.
In response to 44 people in Hong Kong being charged with “rioting” in connection to protests over the weekend, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“By using such vague charges against pro-democracy protesters, the Hong Kong authorities seem intent on sending a chilling warning to anyone considering taking part in future protests.
“While there was violence over the weekend, the definitions of illegal assembly and rioting under Hong Kong law are so broad they fall far short of international standards. It is highly questionable that individuals facing these sweeping charges would have a fair chance of defending themselves at trial.
“With these ambiguous charges combined with the repeated use of excessive force by police and the outright banning of some protests, the authorities are showing a flagrant disregard to the right to peaceful assembly.
“Many people in Hong Kong will today be questioning why charges have been swiftly brought against pro-democracy protesters yet no one involved in the vicious beatings at Yuen Leung station more than a week ago has so far been charged.
Responding to remarks by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday that the controversial Extradition Bill is “dead” and that there would be no high-level independent investigation into the recent policing of protests, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
“Carrie Lam’s refusal to acknowledge the consequences of the fatal flaws of the Extradition Bill continues to inflame the situation in Hong Kong. It is long overdue for her to give an unequivocal commitment that the Extradition Bill, which poses a real threat to human rights, will be withdrawn for good.
“The excessive use of force by police on 12 June was a violation of international law and standards. To be fair to everyone involved, there must be an independent, impartial, effective and prompt investigation into the actions by police on 12 June. Anything else, including an IPCC enquiry that falls short of what is needed, will not help to establish truth and accountability and regain public trust. Police officers responsible, including senior officers in command on 12 June, must face justice.”
Notes to editors