A delegation formed by several Hong Kong civil organisations have attended a three-day meeting at the United Nations (UN) committee against torture in Geneva. At the first day of the meeting on Monday, they discussed issues such as police violence, national security law, and the rights of the disabled, sexual minorities and refugees.

The delegation said in a press release that members of the Civil Human Rights Front and Civil Rights Observer spoke at the meeting about the issue of police using violence during last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protest.

Police warning protesters during Occupy
Police warning protesters during Occupy. Photo: HKFP.

Police violence
The groups highlighted incidents, namely protesters being hit on the head by batons, police attempting “to shoot protesters” and protester Ken Tsang being allegedly beaten by seven police officers.

They asked the committee to share their concern about the absence of information caused by the police refusal to disclose their rules and guidelines for using force. They also said the system for dealing with complaints against police was imperfect, and accused the police of abusing their rights to stop and search Hong Kong people.

The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM) spoke about journalists and human rights observers being attacked, threatened and blocked from working. They urged the committee to demand the Hong Kong government follow the recommendations by the Law Reform Commission in 1992 for legislation defining and restricting police power.

Seven police officers allegedly beating up Civic Party member Ken Tsang during Occupy protest last yea
Seven police officers allegedly beating up Civic Party member Ken Tsang during Occupy protest last year.

Definition of emergency
Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing and HKHRM director Law Yuk-kai said that the definition of “emergency” in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and “turmoil beyond control” in the Basic Law were subjective and vague. If a state of emergency was declared, mainland Chinese laws could be used in Hong Kong and the Chinese army could be deployed, invalidating Hong Kong’s human rights protection.

They urged the committee to highlight the dangers of Article 23 of the Basic Law – the origin of the national security law in Hong Kong which was stopped in 2003 – and that the government should provide reports for the public to monitor, should it start another round of consultations or legislation.

The UN committee members were interested to hear more about the mechanism for handling complaints against police, police allegedly taking revenge on complainants or protesters, domestic workers being tortured, and other issues, the delegation said.

The Hong Kong civil organisations delegation.
The Hong Kong civil organisations delegation. Photo: Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.

Government account
On Tuesday, Permanent Secretary for Security Joshua Law spoke at the meeting to give the government’s account to the committee.

He said that “The police have stringent guidelines on the use of force. The force to be used by the Police shall be the minimum force necessary according to the circumstances at the time and for achieving a lawful purpose.”

For complaints against police, he added that “the police have implemented various measures to enhance public understanding of police work so as to reduce complaints arising from misunderstandings… reportable complaints received by the Police in the first three quarters of this year decreased by 26% over the same period last year.”

In his opening remarks, Mr Law did not talk about the issue of violence against domestic helpers.

The meeting continues on Wednesday.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.