Responding to the HKMAO remarks and the police claims that lowest level, passive and restrained force was deployed in the Yuen Long and Sheung Wan operation last weekend, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:
1. Ignoring the fact of the police heavy-handed approach, State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said they would give its full support to Hong Kong government and the police force. This would only heighten the tension between the police and the public. We urge the government to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the excessive force used by the police in the extradition law related protests. This is the first step for Hong Kong to restore order.
2. Multiple rounds of tear gas and rubber bullet were fired in the Yuen Long and Sheung Wan operation. The police tactics, which limited routes for protesters to disperse, created an environment that was more likely to lead to clashes than deescalating the situation. While some protesters threw objects at police, there were also repeated instances where the police used excessive and unnecessary force against peaceful protesters.
3. Police claimed that tear gas was used to disperse the crowd and to maintain a safe distance from the crowd. Tear gas may only be used to disperse crowds when violence is widespread. However, from media reports and on-site information, protesters were largely peaceful when the first round of tear gas was shot. Multiple rounds of tear gas were fired at the same spot. Police was charging while firing the tear gas. The crowd has no reasonable time to evacuate after the tear gas was fired, heightening the tension between the crowd and the police.
4. Tear gas was deployed even in residential area. Police fired tear gas from the bridge targeting at the people on the ground. Journalists were targeted as well. Some reported headshot by the police with their helmet damaged. Media reports showed the police mistakenly projected a tear gas to the polices cordon line. It should be noted that these less lethal weapons, despite their names, can still lead to serious injury or even death. They should not be directed at peaceful demonstrators or bystanders.
5. Today media reported that water cannon vehicle could be ready to use to disperse protesters in August. According to operational guidelines, as quoted in the media report, the use of the vehicles would only be considered if there was a serious injury, loss of life, widespread destruction of property or disruption of traffic by occupation of major thoroughfares resulting in significant consequences for public order or safety.
However, given the police recently heavy-handed approach, we are concerned that if the Hong Kong police would follow the guidelines when using the water cannon vehicle and to maintain public order in a restrained and professional manner.
6. Amnesty International is now mobilizing sections around the world, calling their local authorities to suspend all transfers of less lethal “crowd control” equipment, including water cannon vehicles, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, projectile launchers and parts and components to Hong Kong, and continue the suspension until the Hong Kong authorities put in place adequate safeguards to ensure the equipment are being properly used and no human rights are being violated.
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