Five British officers holding senior positions within the Hong Kong police were accused by pro-democracy activists after being singled out for brutal action amid the protracted protests that have taken place since June last year in the Special Administrative Region.
AFP reported that the accusation is being made by a team of activists and lawyers who, through the website JustGiving, are trying to raise 200,000 pounds (US$260,000) to employ a full-time legal team.
Prominent pro-democracy activist Nathan Law along with Hong Kong Watch activist Luke de Pulford were in charge of filing the indictment against the police for torturing protesters in police stations and in the streets.
The indictment against the expatriate officers within the Hong Kong police also cites an incident at Hong Kong’s CITIC Tower in which a police officer fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters during the June 2019 protests.
According to de Pulford some of the officers were part of the chain of command while others had a direct role in managing the violence against the protesters.
The legal action filed by the team of lawyers and activists comes at a time when tensions are rising after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed the controversial national security law that largely suppresses civil liberties and the autonomy of the Special Administrative Region.
According to Amnesty International, “Today’s excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the police to disperse protesters once again exposes the authorities’ utter disregard for human rights on the streets of Hong Kong. Mass arrests in entirely peaceful assemblies show that the Hong Kong government is targeting anyone exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said, “The arrests of democracy supporters and activists are an attempt to dismantle Hong Kong’s civil society.”
“Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has long shown itself afraid of public opinion on the mainland, and is using the new national security law to try to smash Hong Kong’s independent voices and settle scores with longtime critics,” Adams said.
“We want to send a signal against impunity. Right now there is no possibility in Hong Kong for any kind of justice,” said de Pulford.
As the Guardian notes, officers joined the police force while Hong Kong was still under British rule in the 1990s. De Pulford points out that 5% of the police force is made up of officers with British passports. According to the activist, if the case goes forward, the officers will have to fly to London to testify in court.
“If the UK’s moral and legal commitment to upholding the rights of Hong Kong people cannot extend to making its own citizens answer for their crimes, it is no commitment at all,” said de Pulford.
Nathan Law, who currently has asylum in London after escaping from Hong Kong, said the initiative is very “important this is one of the very few ways we can hold the Hong Kong police accountable.”
According to AFP, the security law was introduced to quell pro-democracy protests, which provoked criticism from Western nations, including the United Kingdom, and sanctions from the United States.
The team of lawyers and activists said in a statement, “At virtually every major protest, officers have beaten defenseless activists and bystanders and deployed disproportionate force with impunity—including stomping on the heads of protesters already in custody, as well as using the technique of kneeling on the necks of detainees and employing methods, which contravene international policing norms and violate human rights law,” The Guardian reported.
“Heinous accounts of sexual assault and rape in police custody have added to overwhelming evidence of widespread cruel and inhuman treatment,” the statement added.
As the Daily Mail reported, police action has increased considerably against pro-democracy supporters since the introduction of the controversial Security Act which targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
According to critics of the new law imposed by the Chinese Communist Party, it is being used to trample on the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong after its handover from Britain in 1997.