UN urges Hong Kong authorities and protesters to ‘act with restraint’ following recent escalation of violence

The United Nations (UN) is concerned by the ongoing events in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong SAR) and the escalation of violence that has erupted within the past few days.

In a news conference at Geneva yesterday (13 Aug), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law.

Rupert Colville, her spokesperson, told the reporters that the High Commissioner “condemns any form of violence or destruction of property” and urges the authorities and the people of Hong Kong to “engage in an open and inclusive dialogue aimed at resolving all issues peacefully” in order to “achieve long-term political stability and public security”.

“The rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs are expressly recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is incorporated in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR,” he added.

Mr Colville went on to address the issue of law enforcement officials using anti-riot measures which are “prohibited by international norms and standards”, citing from credible evidence review by the UN Human Rights Office.

As an example, he pointed out that officials have been seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on numerous occasions, “creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury”.

“The Office would urge the Hong Kong SAR authorities to investigate these incidents immediately, to ensure security personnel comply with the rules of engagement, and where necessary, amend the rules of engagement for law enforcement officials in response to protests where these may not conform with international standards,” Mr. Colville stressed.

Additionally, the Office urged the authorities to “act with restraint” and to respect and protect peaceful protesters while simultaneously ensuring that law enforcement officials respond to violence in accordance with international standards on the use of force, “including the principles of necessity and proportionality”.