Calling 2014 a “catastrophic” year for millions of people around the world, Amnesty International in its latest report also expressed concern over the threat to freedom of speech and assembly in Hong Kong.
In the report released Wednesday, the human rights watchdog noted that Hong Kong police used tear gas and pepper spray against pro-democracy protesters during the Occupy movement last year and also resorted to other violent means to suppress the peaceful demonstrators.
Even press reporters and bystanders were sometimes at the receiving end of police action, it noted.
Meanwhile, some people who were arrested earlier for joining a sit-in after a July 1 pro-democracy rally had claimed that they were not allowed to contact lawyers, and were not given any food or water, the report said.
Responding to the report, the police department said it has been strictly following the rules regarding use of force and that any force used had been minimum and considered necessary to achieve legal purposes, according to Ming Pao Daily.
There is absolutely no toleration for any violence, and any law-breaking case is dealt with fairly, the police said.
On the issue of freedom of speech, Amnesty specifically mentioned the dismissal of former Ming Pao Daily chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in January last year, saying the issue has sparked concern.
In addition, the report also mentioned an open letter jointly written by 20 reporters at Television Broadcasts Ltd. (TVB) during the Occupy period, which raised the issue of self-censorship by media.
TVB had been accused of toning down some reportage on alleged police brutality on a pro-democracy activist.
The police department said it has been respectful to press freedom, helping with media reporting and keeping effective communication with members of the fourth estate.
The case of alleged abuse of Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih by her Hong Kong employer also caught the attention of Amnesty International.
As foreign maids are mostly required to live with their employers, it increases the risk of the workers facing abuse and being denied their rights, the watchdog said.
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