Hong Kong police must end the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters, Amnesty International said today, as it published details of new video analysis showing numerous instances of excessive use of force by law-enforcement officials on 12 June.
Amnesty experts in policing and digital verification examined footage of 14 incidents filmed during last weeks protest, which saw tens of thousands of people taking part in a largely peaceful demonstration against the Hong Kong governments controversial new extradition bill.
Tear gas, guns firing rubber bullets, pepper spray and batons were used to disperse the demonstration, which is detailed in a new 20-page report How Not To Police A Protest: Unlawful Use of Force by Hong Kong Police.
In each of the 14 instances examined, the footage – drawn from media coverage, as well as footage posted on social media – shows violations of international law and standards on the use of force by law-enforcement officials. The verified footage shows:
– The beating of subdued protesters by police officers;
– The firing of rubber bullets at a protesters 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.
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. Though such less lethal weapons are usually classified as crowd-control devices, their use can result in serious injury and even death.
Meanwhile, the deployment of excessively high numbers of police officers and the deployment of heavy anti-riot equipment at the protests was clearly intended to intimidate protesters and was likely to have increased tensions leading to violence. Law-enforcement officials should always attempt non-violent means first in the policing of assemblies, including dialogue, de-escalation and negotiation, before resorting to any use of force.
Hong Kong police unmistakably 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.
Man-kei Tam, Amnesty International Hong Kongs Director, said:
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”