Tear gas on 2 November 2019 (Source: standwhk Instagram account).

OHCHR urges Hong Kong’s authorities to take accountability for alleged police brutality against protesters, reiterates condemnation of violence from both sides

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Tue on (19 Nov) has called for accountability not only against individuals who have perpetuated violence in the Hong Kong protests, but also in relation to allegations of police brutality.

Stating that the OHCHR is “deeply concerned at the risk of further escalation of violence in Hong Kong”, Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for OHCHR, said that “[a]ccountability for violence is also key – both in the case of individuals who have broken the law and committed acts of violence, but also in the case of allegations of excessive use of force by the police”.

Colville also urged the Hong Kong government “to strengthen its efforts to bring together all sectors of society, including student groups, business community, political leaders, community leaders and others in a truly inclusive dialogue in order to find peaceful solutions to the grievances raised by a significant number of Hong Kong citizens”.

The OHCHR also observed that while “vast majority of the people of Hong Kong have been exercising their right of freedom of assembly peacefully and in accordance with the law”, the escalating violence “by groups of young people engaging in the protests who are clearly very angry, with deep-seated grievances” is concerning.

“We have been following with deepening concern the situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the past few months.

“The resort to extreme violence – including against the police force – by some engaged in the protests is therefore deeply regretted and cannot be condoned. We would appeal to all engaging in protests to renounce and condemn the use of violence,” urged OHCHR.

Touching on the situation at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the OHCHR called upon Hong Kong authorities “to do all they can to de-escalate the situation, to address the humanitarian situation of those inside which is clearly deteriorating, and facilitate a peaceful resolution”.

Thousands of student protesters swarmed into the university and occupied the campus, which has left the campus in ruins by Tue.

Riot police surrounded university grounds and accused protesters of turning PolyU and other universities into “weapons factories” that “look like military training grounds”, CNN reported on Tue.

Hong Kong authorities had gone through 1,100 people, 600 of whom had voluntarily vacated the university.

Police in a statement today (20 Nov) said that “all persons under 18 years old leaving the campus are required to be photographed and have their personal particulars registered”.

“They will not be arrested at [the] scene but Police reserve every right to take any legal actions in the future,” said the Hong Kong police.

The PolyU campus has also been used as “a base from which they launched operations to block nearby roads and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel which connects Kowloon to Hong Kong Island”, according to CNN.

Colville, on behalf of OHCHR, said that the Office “stands ready to advise and support constructive efforts by the Government of Hong Kong to resolve the crisis peacefully and through dialogue”.

The UN’s seventh High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said last month that she was “troubled” by Hong Kong’s increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, and stressed that any measures to quell the unrest must be grounded in law.

“We are troubled by the high levels of violence associated with some demonstrations that have been taking place in the past days,” Bachelet told reporters at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on 5 Oct.

She said she was “alarmed” by injuries to police, protesters and journalists covering the demonstrations.

“I strongly condemn all acts of violence from all sides,” she added.

The special administrative region has been rocked by seismic pro-democracy protests for nearly eight months, which began as a rally against a controversial extradition Bill on 31 Mar. While the Bill has now been fully withdrawn by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the movement has expanded into rallying calls for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.

The four other demands placed by the protesters from the Hong Kong government are the resignation of Carrie Lam as Chief Executive, an inquiry into police brutality during the protests, the release of those arrested during the course of the protests, and greater democratic freedoms.

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