Amnesty International has called on Beijing to release eight people arrested in the mainland for supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges Hong Kong authorities not to prosecute protesters.

Su Changlan, Chen Qitang, Ji Sizun, Sun Feng, Wang Mo, Xie Wenfei, Zhang Shengyu and Ye Xiaozheng were taken into custody between October and December after posting messages on social media and holding up banners in public to support the Hong Kong protests.

Three have been charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “inciting subversion of state power.”

Photo: HKFP.

“The shameful prosecution of these activists demonstrates the Chinese authorities’ contempt for freedom of expression, which does not bode well for Hong Kong,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, “These activists are being persecuted simply for posting pictures of themselves with messages saying ‘Support Hong Kong’ and ‘Freedom is Priceless.’ The Chinese authorities should immediately drop these charges against them as they have been detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Amnesty International said that the activists’ legal rights were violated in detention as none of them were allowed visits from their families amid claims of inhumane treatment.

Zhang Shengyu was “frequently beaten while in detention, and was once tied to a bed with heavy chains on his wrists and ankles for 15 days,” Amnesty International said in a press release citing Zhang’s lawyer. Another detainee, Su Changlan told her lawyer she was denied adequate medical treatment.

In Hong Kong, around 1,000 people were arrested in connection with last year’s mass movement, the HRW said, adding most of them were quickly released but 160 have been officially charged.

Police and protesters face off during the Umbrella Movement. Photo: HKFP.

“A year after Hong Kong people staged an unprecedented protest for democracy, the government continues to deny this fundamental right, while pressing charges against student leaders for organising the peaceful movement,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “This raises real concerns about adherence to international human rights standards.”

Student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow are charged with unlawful assembly and inciting others to take part in unlawful assembly, while Wong and Law also face charges of obstructing police. If convicted, the students face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

HRW also urged Hong Kong’s government to look into the police force’s handling of the Occupy protests. The Complaints Against Police Office has received over 2,400 complaints related to the mass protests but only handed 150 cases to the its supervisory body, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), HRW said. The IPCC is only investigating 16 cases while dismissing the rest of of the 150 “because complainants have either withdrawn the complaints or cannot be reached.”

The NGO called for another independent body to be set up to investigate complaints against police, noting that the IPCC has limited power and its members are appointed by the city’s chief executive.

“Unless the government orders a thorough investigation into the handling of the protests, the police’s reputation will be stained for many years to come,” Richardson said.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.