In response to the HKSAR’s attempted arrest and subsequent obstruction of a human rights observer of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM) in his execution of observation duties and journalists were interrupted and arrested when exercising their duties on the 14th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), we, the undersigned local and international human rights organizations, express grave concern over the incident after it clearly violated from the UN Declaration and Basic Law. We hope this incident does not represent a growing intolerance by the HKSAR of human rights field work and demonstrations by the opposition, and of a declining readiness of the HKPF to be held accountable to the public in its actions through independent close range observations by human rights observers.
As Human Rights Organizations, we are shocked by the HKPF’s attempted arrest and removal of Mr. Law Yuk Kai who is the Director of HKHRM, the arrest of Ms Choi who is an intern-reporter of New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) and the attack by pepper spray of 19 journalists when they were performing their professional duties at the demonstrations in the early morning of 2nd July 2011. The treatment faced by Mr. Law, the journalists, and Ms Choi in particular, reflected the failure of the HKPF to recognize and respect the role of human rights defenders in monitoring police actions, especially the handling of public demonstrations. Such measures of the HKPF were inconsistent with international human rights norms and practices. We found such developments in the HKSAR disturbing.
According to the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, human rights defenders refer to “individuals, groups and associations … contributing to … the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals“.
Mr. Law has been monitoring possible human rights violations in his capacity as HKHRM Director in various demonstrations in Hong Kong over the past fifteen years. On the early morning on 2nd July 2011, he was again performing his role as a “human rights observer”. As clearly demonstrated in various video footages and witnessed by many people including journalists and other people in the vicinity, Mr. Law was in an orange uniform with the Chinese and English bilingual title of “Observer” and that of HKHRM, monitoring the police’s removal and the arrest of protesters peacefully lying on the road protesting against the restriction of rights of elections in the proposed electoral laws by the HK SAR Government. At around 2 am, a number of police officers approached Mr. Law and attempted to arrest him. Although Mr. Law had identified himself as the Director of HKHRM and told the police he was monitoring the situation, he was evacuated [removed by force] from the scene. The attempted arrest was only stopped by a police commander when Mr. Law made a complaint in front of the media on the way to being forced to the police van holding arrested persons. However, Mr. Law was taken away from the scene as a result he could not continue the monitoring mission when Ms Choi from the NTDTV was arrested.
Ms Choi is an intern-reporter from NTDTV. She was performing her professional duty to cover the situation of the protest at the same location as Mr. Law. Although Ms Choi did not carry her press card, she did identify herself as an intern-report from NTDTV. The police ignored her explanation and arrested her. It was even more outrageous that the police refused to release Ms Choi after NTDTV had provided the documents required by the HKPF to prove Ms Choi’s identity. Ms Choi was detained until 11 am the next morning. It is obvious that Mr. Law and Ms Choi have done nothing inconsistent with the role as impartial observers and reporters. They have not intervened nor obstructed police actions. According to the Johannesburg Principles, “governments may not prevent journalists or representatives of intergovernmental or nongovernmental organizations with a mandate to monitor adherence to human rights or humanitarian standards from entering areas where there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations of human rights or humanitarian law are being, or have been, committed. Governments may not exclude journalists or representatives of such organizations from areas that are experiencing violence or armed conflict except where their presence would pose a clear risk to the safety of others.”(1) The denial of access of human rights observers to restricted areas as to thwart the purposes of human rights and humanitarian law by restricting the free flow of information is totally unacceptable.(2) The police should respect human rights defenders’ rights to access to restricted areas for promoting and protecting human rights rather than harass or arrest them. Furthermore, the act of HKPF clearly contravened United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Basic Law of HKSAR and Police General Orders. The conducts of the HKPF in the morning of 2nd July 2011 which has sparked concern from the local public and the international communities should hence be unacceptable.
In light of the above, we urge the HKPF,
- to stop any attempt to obstruct independent and renowned human rights organizations such as the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor in their human rights observation work, in particular of demonstrations in the future;
- to continue to respect and assist independent and renowned human rights organizations such as the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor in conducting observation of demonstrations including enabling observers to have close range observations e.g. at scenes of arrests;
- to stop interfering with the press in their efforts to cover arrests at the scene;.
- to strengthen the training on international human rights standards on policing, particular for the frontline police.
Amnesty International Hong Kong
Asian Human Rights Commission
International Federation of Journalists
(1) The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access, to Information: “Principle 19. Access to Restricted Areas
Any restriction on the free flow of information may not be of such a nature as to thwart the purposes of human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, governments may not prevent journalists or representatives of intergovernmental or nongovernmental organizations with a mandate to monitor adherence to human rights or humanitarian standards from entering areas where there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations of human rights or humanitarian law are being, or have been, committed. Governments may not exclude journalists or representatives of such organizations from areas that are experiencing violence or armed conflict except where their presence would pose a clear risk to the safety of others.”