Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Hong Kong government to probe allegations of “excessive force and other violations of human rights” by police in response to ongoing demonstrations.
In a Jan. 8 letter to Hong Kong’s top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the New York-based group called on the Hong Kong government “to promptly establish an independent, impartial, and effective investigation” into allegations of police misconduct.
HRW said that since concerns over police violence and the ineffectiveness of the police complaints mechanism arose in June 2019, the Hong Kong Police Force “have escalated their use of apparently excessive force against peaceful protesters, journalists, and bystanders.”
The group cited a number of instances in which police deployed vehicles, pepper spray, and tear gas against protesters. In one instance, an Indonesian journalist was blinded in one eye with a rubber bullet, while the eye of another protester was “severely injured” by a bean bag round in a separate incident.
“Human Rights Watch, along with numerous other nongovernmental organizations, United Nations human rights experts, Hong Kong legislators, and members of the public have long expressed concerns about the ability of the CAPO (Complaints Against Police Office) and the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council) to credibly investigate allegations of police misconduct,” HRW said.
“We urge that you seize this opportunity to create an independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged excessive use of force and other abuses by the police since the protests began on June 9.”
On Jan. 3, Catholic leaders joined lawmakers and civic figures from 18 countries in urging Lam to end police brutality against pro-democracy protesters and start listening to their demands.
The Hong Kong government called the claims in that letter “unfounded and misguided.”
The protests kicked off in June against plans to allow criminal suspects be extradited to mainland China, which critics feared would compromise Hong Kong’s judicial independence under the “one country, two systems” arrangement agreed with former ruler Britain.
Although the plans were scrapped in September protests have continued with demands by protesters for full democracy and an inquiry into police brutality. Police in turn have accused protesters of using violence against them and engaging in looting and other acts of vandalism.
So far police have made around 6,500 arrests during the more than seven months of unrest.