Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan has accused the police of “playing the victim” after top brass brushed off allegations of brutality as attempts to “vilify” the force at the United Nations (UN).

The Civic Party legislator’s remark came after a speech delivered by the Deputy Commissioner of Police Oscar Kwok at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Tanya Chan
Tanya Chan. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Kwok said that since the start of large-scale unrest over a now-axed extradition bill last June, protesters have sought to “extort” their demands from the government through “mob violence.”

“This was the real reason they are relentless in accusing the police of brutality, as part of a comprehensive effort to vilify the Hong Kong police, with the aim of removing it from the equation so that the extortion could be successful,” he said.

Kwok cited the use of petrol bombs as well as vandalisation of shops, banks, restaurants and train stations as evidence of some of the chaotic scenes at protests.

He also referenced the death of a 70-year-old man, who was hit on the head by a brick during a clash between masked protesters and civilians last November. He said these incidents were the “nature of the horrible menace that faced innocent Hong Kong citizens.”

“It was the Hong Kong police which had the unenviable task of preserving their rights and freedoms which are no less worthy of protection than those claimed by the protesters.”

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Reacting to Kwok’s speech, Chan said claims against the force were based on international standards and supported by evidence, such as media coverage and reports from human rights groups including NGO Amnesty International.

The lawmaker spoke at the UN body last September, where she called for an international investigation into alleged police brutality in Hong Kong.

“The protests have been widely covered by local and international media. Their reports are evidence of police brutality,” Chan told HKFP on Tuesday.

“The police need to stop victimising themselves. Yes, they work under pressure, but so does everyone else. I don’t see why people should tolerate this one particular occupation,” she added.

Icarus Wong, founder of Civil Rights Observer, agreed with Chan, saying that complaints against the force were based on facts. He also accused Kwok of ignoring international concerns about alleged police misconduct.

Wong told HKFP that Kwok only pointed the finger at protesters and failed to acknowledge that clashed had intensified due to the excessive use of force by police.

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Police arrest protesters on CUHK campus. Photo: Stand News.

“Protesters have engaged in non-peaceful demonstrations, but that does not mean police can use excessive force while handling those incidents,” Wong said.

“People are not saying that the police should not enforce the law. They are concerned because some officers had violated guidelines but faced no consequences,” he added.

Kwok concluded his speech by saying that police have a lawful duty to arrest those who breached the law, regardless of their cause: “The basic premise of the rule of law is that. No one is above the law.”

Wong said the force has acted above the law as police officers have not been properly penalised for misconduct. He referred to 21 officers who were “reprimanded” during the protests, including the one who was filmed steering a motorcycle into a crowd of black-clad protesters in Kwai Fong on last November. The driver was temporarily suspended.

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“It is unacceptable to see no penalties for violations. This is exactly why citizens have lost confidence in the force,” Wong said.

Chan also criticised Kwok, saying that he had misinterpreted the rule of law: “I don’t know what their definition of rule of law is, but Hong Kong is becoming a city ruled by law. It’s a shame that law enforcement does not truly understand the meaning of the rule of law.”

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.