24 October 2016
Police pepper-spray protesters during the Occupy movement last year. Photo: Reuters
Police pepper-spray protesters during the Occupy movement last year. Photo: Reuters

UN panel concerned over police violence during Occupy protests

The United Nations Committee Against Torture said it is concerned about consistent reports that Hong Kong police resorted to violence against more than 1,300 Occupy protesters, about 500 of whom were admitted to hospital. 

In a periodic report on compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it also expressed concern at allegations of threats made by police of sexual violence and assaults to demonstrators while they were following instructions to leave the scenes of the protests late last year.

The committee said Wednesday the Hong Kong government should: 

(1) Conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of excessive use of force by the police and anti-demonstrators during the protests.

(2) Duly prosecute alleged perpetrators, including those officers who were complicit in or allowed those acts to occur, and ensure that those found guilty are convicted with adequate penalties.

(3) Provide full redress to the victims, including fair and adequate compensation.

(4) Publicize the Police General Orders and related guidelines on the use of force and make sure that they are in compliance with international standards.

(5) Strengthen ongoing training for all law enforcement officers on the absolute prohibition of torture and on international standards on the use of force, as well as on their liability in the event of excessive use of force.

In a response to the report, the government said the police have always strived to facilitate the smooth conduct of lawful and peaceful public meetings and processions, while at the same time reducing the impact of these events on other members of the public and ensuring public order and public safety.

If there is any illegal act, it said, the police have a duty to take enforcement action to maintain law and order.

The police have strict guidelines on the use of force and stringent training courses, the government said.

The force to be used by police officers shall be the minimum force necessary according to the circumstances at the time and for achieving a lawful purpose, it said.

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