Hong Kong’s international airport was shut down on Monday, August 12, as thousands of demonstrators spontaneously gathered to protest police violence that injured at least several people over the weekend.
Clashes between riot police and protesters have become increasingly fierce during the past week, as police have fired rubber bullets and used tear gas in an attempt to disperse crowds. All departing flights from Hong Kong’s airport currently remain suspended.
Hong Kong’s citywide protests, which began June 9 and originally arose in response to a proposed extradition agreement with China, are now being characterized more broadly as “pro-democracy” demonstrations, by both the Hong Kong demonstrators and by Chinese authorities in Beijing.
Demonstrators, largely led by younger millenials in Hong Kong, are asking for stronger support from the United States, as protests enter their third month. However, the White House has attempted to remain neutral and has refrained from making any strong public statements.
China’s communist government has recently begun to compare the protesters in Hong Kong to terrorists and blame them for inciting violence.
Amnesty International Condemns Hong Kong Police Tactics
Amnesty International, a prominent global human rights organization, has been outspoken in its criticism of Hong Kong police tactics, including firing on protesters who were in retreat and not allowing protesters to distance themselves from exploding tear gas canisters.
Amnesty International’s Hong Kong Director Man-Kei Tam issued a statement on Monday, saying: “Hong Kong police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in a way that have fallen short of international standards. Firing at retreating protesters in confined areas where they had little time to leave goes against the purported objective of dispersing a crowd.”
CNN reported that one protester suffered a ruptured eye when a police-fired bean bag object hit her in the face.
Tam continued, “Tear gas should not be used in confined spaces or where exits are blocked or restricted. Tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper ball projectiles can cause serious injury and is even potentially lethal. They should therefore never be fired directly at anyone and should not be fired at all when visibility is poor. When such weapons are deployed, it must be in strict compliance with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”
“Law enforcement officials must be able to carry out their duty to protect the public. However, violence directed at police does not give officers a green light to operate outside of international policing standards. Any heavy-handed policing approach will only increase tension and provoke hostility, leading to the overall escalation of the situation.”