Police order protesters back during a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on New Year's Day. (Photo: AFP)
Hong Kong authorities have been urged to establish an independent investigation into alleged excessive use of force by police against pro-democracy protesters over the last seven months.
No police officers are known to have been disciplined or prosecuted for abuses committed in relation to the demonstrations that began in the former British colony in June 2019.
Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam calling for a commission of inquiry into alleged police abuses.
“Hong Kong authorities have international legal obligations to investigate alleged abusive police conduct,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
“They have failed to do so in the face of calls from Hong Kong citizens, legal experts, and rights groups, missing critical opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to human rights and the rule of law.”
Human Rights Watch set out key items for an independent inquiry: a clear scope of inquiry; a comprehensive investigation; the authority to offer anonymity, confidentiality, and protection to witnesses; and adequate investigatory authority.
Protests began in the Chinese territory when more than two million people demonstrated against proposed amendments to the law that would enable extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.
Although Lam eventually withdrew the amendments, her refusal to condemn police brutality and her designation of protesters as “rioters” led to ongoing protests across the city.
The police have arrested nearly 7,000 people and fired more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas, 10,000 rubber bullets, 2,000 beanbag rounds, and 1,900 sponge grenades.
An estimated one million people marched on New Year’s Day in the latest demonstration for democracy and accountability.
“An independent commission of inquiry is the first step to addressing the serious human rights violations against protesters since June,” Richardson said. “Hong Kong police need to be held accountable to the law, not just to their bosses.”