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An Urgent Appeal: Stop Police Brutality in Hong Kong

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Bitter Winter

40 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries write to Carrie Lam


Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, GBM, GBS

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Dear Chief Executive,

We are writing to express our grave concerns at the recent escalation in police brutality over the Christmas period.

We have been horrified to see reports of police firing teargas, pepper-spray and rubber bullets at close-range at shoppers, peaceful protesters and innocent by-standers on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and again on Saturday 28 December. We are profoundly disturbed by scenes of children and young people being severely beaten, and of rubber bullets being fired into people’s faces, acts which any ballistics expert would confirm presents a serious risk of injury or death, and which therefore is a serious violation of international standards.

We note the Hong Kong government’s rebuttal of a statement by Hong Kong Watch, its rejection of the Washington Post’s in-depth report which details how police actions have been in serious breach of the Hong Kong Police Force’s own standards, and its response to the publication of a letter by key religious figures from the United Kingdom initiated by Stand With Hong Kong, but we remain gravely concerned that the Hong Kong government’s explanation is extremely unsatisfactory. Criticism by such organizations of police brutality or even of Hong Kong government’s conduct and policy does not make such organizations “anti-government”.

We are also gravely concerned by the reports of a British surgeon resident in Hong Kong, Dr Darren Mann, in an article in the world’s leading medical journal The Lancet, in which he details the arrest and abuse of doctors, nurses and first-aiders at protest sites, and further reports which include claims of police in full riot gear with weapons patrolling hospital wards, insisting on accompanying doctors on consultations, demanding access to medical records, seeking access to hospital operation theatres and using ambulances to transport riot police – all violations of international humanitarian norms.

The abuse of the press by the Hong Kong Police Force and reports of torture, beatings and sexual abuse in detention are also profoundly concerning.

We understand that the actions of a small group of protesters have been violent, and we do not in any way condone violence or vandalism. However, we wish to note two important points. First, the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful, and yet they have also been attacked aggressively by the Hong Kong Police Force. Second, while nothing justifies violence, it is clear that those protesters who have resorted to violence have acted in desperation and frustration, borne of your government’s refusal to listen to their real fears, understood by many around the world, for more than six months. Their fears are not just for themselves right now, but for their future and for the lives of unborn children who will count Hong Kong as home after 2047.

We are therefore writing to appeal to you to re-think the position and strategy of the Hong Kong SAR Government. A cycle of violence is in nobody’s interests.

It is essential that the Hong Kong Police Force is instructed to exercise restraint, to respect peaceful protest, and to use only proportionate measures when dealing with any violent conduct.

Secondly, we urge you to listen to the protesters’ demands and in particular to make it possible for an independent inquiry into police brutality to be established. Should you continue to reject this idea, we call on the international community to establish an international, independent inquiry mechanism.

Thirdly, we call for the release of all protesters who have been unjustly detained and who have engaged in peaceful protest. Just because some protesters have turned to violence, it does not invalidate peaceful protests and it does not turn peaceful participants into criminals.

Fourthly, we urge you to consider political reform, following the clear message from the recent turnout and results in the district council elections, and to begin a meaningful dialogue with the recently elected district councilors who have a direct mandate from the people.

Fifthly, if we or others from the international community can be helpful in encouraging or facilitating a process of mediation and reconciliation, we stand ready to assist.

Hong Kong is a great world city, a major international financial and trading center and an important gateway to China and the rest of Asia. It would be a tragedy if it loses this role and gains a reputation for repression.

We appeal to you to use your authority and exercise your responsibility to seek genuine ways forward out of this crisis by addressing the grievances of Hong Kong people, bringing the Hong Kong Police Force under control, ensuring accountability and an end to impunity for serious violations of human rights, and beginning a process of democratic political reform. It is clear to us that these steps offer some hope of a way forward out of the current crisis.

Failure to seize this opportunity will result in further human suffering, fear, violence and instability and the tragic decline of your great city. It may also result in even more vocal calls for targeted Magnitsky sanctions against officials in Hong Kong directly or indirectly responsible for human rights violations.  It is our hope that you choose a path of constructive and meaningful reform that makes reconciliation and healing possible.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mantas Adomenas, Member of Parliament, Lithuania

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Vice-Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, House of Lords, and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, United Kingdom

Hon. Thomas H. Andrews, former Member of Congress, United States

Margarete Bause, Member of the German Bundestag and Member of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Germany

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Co-Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, House of Commons, United Kingdom

The Rt Hon John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons, United Kingdom

Sonja Biserko, founder and President, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, and former member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, Serbia

His Eminence Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences and Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Alistair Carmichael MP, Co-Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, House of Commons, and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, United Kingdom

Sarah Champion MP, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Kenny Chiu MP, Member of Parliament, Canada

Dr John Dayal, former President of the All India Catholic Union and member of the National Integration Council, India

Rafendi Djamin, former Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, Indonesia

Vicki Dunne MP, Member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, Australia

Dr Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, United States

Jan Figel, former Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia and EU Special Envoy for Promotion Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union (2016-19), Slovakia

Viggo Fischer, former Member of Parliament, Denmark

Anna Fotyga MEP, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland, and Member of the European Parliament, Poland

Guissou Jahangiri, Vice-President, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and Executive Director, Armanshahr Foundation/Open Asia, Afghanistan

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom

Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary-General, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and Secretary, Odikhar, Bangladesh

Hon. David Kilgour, former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, International Patron of Hong Kong Watch, Canada

U Kyaw Min San, Member of the Bago Regional Parliament and former legal adviser to the International Commission of Jurists Office, Myanmar

Jung-Hoon Lee, former Ambassador for North Korean Human Rights, former Ambassador for Human Rights, Founder of the Yonsei Center for Human Liberty, Yonsei University, and International Patron of Hong Kong Watch, Republic of Korea

Miriam Lexmann, Member-Elect of the European Parliament, Slovakia

Aušra Maldeikienė MEP, Member of the European Parliament, Lithuania

Ronan Mullen, Senator, Republic of Ireland

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester and Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD), United Kingdom

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Barrister, former chief prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, Chairman of the China Tribunal and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, United Kingdom

Martin Patzelt, Member of the German Bundestag and Member of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Germany

Hon. Bob Rae, CC, PC, QC, Professor, University of Toronto and former Premier of Ontario and Federal Member of Parliament, Canada

Grover Joseph Rees, former US Special Representative for Social Issues and former US Ambassador to Timor-Leste, United States

The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC, former Foreign Secretary and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, United Kingdom

Janelle Saffin, Member of Parliament in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and former Member of the Federal Parliament, Australia

Charles Santiago MP, Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Member of Parliament, Malaysia

Debbie Stothard, Coordinator/Founder, ALTSEAN (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma), Myanmar

Dr Charles Tannock MBE MBBS MRCPsych, former Member of the European Parliament and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, United Kingdom

Alissa Wahid, National Director of the Gusdurian Network and daughter of former President of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), Indonesia

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, Indonesia

Catherine West MP, Member of Parliament and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, United Kingdom

January 1, 2020


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