An American lawmaker has said that he will introduce legislation to suspend the sale of US munitions and police crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong force. The UN has also criticised the city’s police as not following international norms and standards when using such gear.

“Due to the excessive use of force & lack of restraint by Hong Kong authorities, I will soon introduce legislation to suspend U.S. sales of munitions, police & crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong police,” US House Representative Jim McGovern tweeted on Tuesday.

Weapons used by the Hong Kong police have been supplied by the US company NonLethal Technologies based in Homer City, Pennsylvania, as well as ALS, based in Perry, Florida, among others.

kwai fong mtr tear gas
Police firing tear gas inside the Kwai Fong MTR station. Photo: Felix Lam/HK.Imaginaire; RTHK screenshot.

The Hong Kong police have used at least 1,800 canisters of tear gas during the summer’s anti-extradition law protests. They also used several hundred rounds of rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, sponge grenades, though the total number of projectiles fired is uncertain.

McGovern is a co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, who previously acted as a co-sponsor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. The Act will punish Hong Kong officials harming human rights in the city, if passed.

china extradition august 4 causeway bay
Photo: May James/HKFP.

He called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to immediately begin a dialogue with protest leaders to address their “legitimate grievances.”

“The only way forward is peaceful dialogue – not more violence,” he said.

The UN Human Rights Office said on Tuesday that it has reviewed “credible evidence” of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards.

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Tear gas and rubber bullet munitions used by riot police in Causeway Bay. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“For example, officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury,” it said.

“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.”

On Sunday, the Hong Kong police fired tear gas inside Kwai Fong’s MTR station and shot protesters at close range at Tai Koo station. Some officers were disguised as protesters, as one protester had her right eye ruptured, apparently caused by a bean bag round fired by police in Tsim Sha Tsui. Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the police on Tuesday.

The Office urged the Hong Kong government to act with restraint to ensure that the rights of those who are expressing their views peacefully are respected and protected, whilst also ensuring that the use of force by law enforcement officials is proportionate and in conformity with international standards.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the Hong Kong government and residents to engage in an open and inclusive dialogue aimed at resolving all issues peacefully.

bean bag round protester right eye
A suspected bean bag round was shot at a protester’s right eye.

A White House petition launched by Demosisto Secretary-General Joshua Wong calling for the suspension of crowd control equipment exports to Hong Kong has reached the threshold of 100,000 signatures. The White House will thus have to give a response to the petition.

On June 25, the UK suspended export licences for crowd control equipment to the city, though there were reportedly no live export licences active at the time.

Back in the US, Nancy Pelosi, US speaker of the House, urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to listen to the public.

“It is alarming to watch the Hong Kong police with support from Beijing intensify their use of force against the protesters and label them violent criminals,” she said.

Last week, Pelosi praised Hong Kong protesters in a statement and said their demands should be fulfilled.

“When we return to Washington, the bipartisan, bicameral Congress will begin our work to advance the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and fight to preserve democratic freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong,” she said.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also warned Beijing that any violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong would be unacceptable.

“The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” McConnell tweeted. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable… The world is watching.”

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.