‘Multilateral efforts needed to help Hong Kong’ as British lawmakers find abuse of medical workers in protests


Hong Kong failed to protect medical workers according to international law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration during chaotic mass protests last year where the police was said to have resorted to excessive measures to curb demonstrators, a British parliamentary group has reported.

The multipartisan All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong also suggests that the United Kingdom lead efforts to establish an independent mechanism in the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the city’s situation, or work with the International Bar Association to set up an independent inquiry.

Possible human rights abuses inflicted by the Hong Kong police force on humanitarian aid workers were the subject of an inquiry launched in March by the group of 10 members of the U.K. Parliament.

In its inquiry, the British group found that treatment aid workers, including doctors, nurses, and individuals with first-aid qualifications who had volunteered to provide medical help during the protests, were subjected to intimidation, harassment, threats, physical violence and arrest.

“First-aiders appear to have been the main group subjected to such treatment,” the group said in an 80-page report released on Tuesday. The police’s treatment of humanitarian aid workers “resulted in injured protesters not receiving the required medical care in time or at all.”

The group of parliamentarians arrived at its conclusions after reading through about 1,000 submissions of evidence from the public and conducting oral hearings with 10 witnesses, including medical workers, academics, a journalist and a former police officer.

Citing evidence provided by the witnesses, the group said in its report: “[The first-aiders] recalled that the police gave no verbal warning and had only raised the warning flag for 30 seconds before they started firing tear-gas canisters at the crowd with 1/3 first-aiders. The firing was indiscriminate, and the police allowed no time for the crowd to disperse.”

It also quoted from Article 3(5) of the declaration, which guaranteed protection of the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people, and said that any actions of the Hong Kong police that violated those rights were contrary to the letter and spirit of the declaration.

The treatment of humanitarian aid workers described in the report made a strong case that these rights had been violated, the group said.

It suggested that the U.K. impose sanctions on those responsible for permitting police brutality at a high level in the Hong Kong administration, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Commissioner of Police Chris Tang.

The U.K. government had a unique responsibility to the people of Hong Kong, both as the only other signatory to the declaration and as a “leading champion of human rights in the international community,” the group said.

The declaration is an agreement signed between China and Britain in 1984 to settle the future of Hong Kong after July 1, 1997, and registered with the U.N. the following year. Files declassified from the National Archives in London in 2014 recorded the U.K. as giving the assurance to Hong Kong’s executive and legislative councillors after the signing that “Britain has the right to raise any breaches with China after 1997. We would not hesitate to do so.”

At an online news briefing on Tuesday, group co-chair Baroness Bennett said: “When the U.K. handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, we also handed over the people of Hong Kong. We expected China to honor its word and legal duty to ensure those people were able to develop democratic structures and systems.”

Her co-chair, Alistair Carmichael MP, noted Britain’s historical and moral obligations to Hongkongers, but said multilateral efforts were required to make an impact and could not be carried out by the U.K. alone.

Bennett said the present situation in Hong Kong was “hugely difficult and very unstable,” when asked whether she felt the humanitarian situation in Hong Kong would worsen after Beijing imposed a new national security law on the city on June 30. She saw on social media that Hongkongers had been arrested for holding up blank sheets of paper and for their social media posts, she said.

“I have huge respect and huge worry for people who have been and continue to be so brave,” she said.

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