International Reaction – including New York Times and Washington Post – to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong
Inquiry into violations of human rights and humanitarian principles by the Hong Kong Police Force
And “Why the Word Must Act” by Hong Kong Surgeon, Darren Mann
“The breakdown of trust between police and public was vividly illustrated when one young doctor fearfully told parliamentarians that, as a consequence of even speaking to us about what he had seen and experienced, police officers “could come crashing through my door, I would, disappear and never be seen again”.
The Report calls on the UK Government to impose sanctions on senior Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam; to work with international organisations, including the UN, to further investigate the conduct of the enforcement agencies; and to engage with Hong Kong authorities to strengthen human rights protections across the city.
6pm BBC R4 news: 13.30 in:
The Washington Post:
BBC World News
Hong Kong Free Press
Read the full Report here:
Read Sarah Champion MP on Labour List:
Read David Alton – Lord Alton of Liverpool – on City AM
On 9 March, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong, of which I am a vice chair, launched an inquiry into human rights abuses perpetrated by the Hong Kong Police Force against medical and humanitarian workers during the 2019 protests.
One thousand submissions later, we are ready to publish our findings.
Our report, published today, dissects the reality of the shrinking safe space for these crucial workers and touches on the draconian measures that have been implemented to silence the everyday, brave people of Hong Kong.
Having listened to the powerful testimonies given by medical professionals, humanitarian workers, academics, internationally accredited journalists and others and based on the evidence we heard, we made a number of recommendations.
Testimonies included those from a group of first aiders, who described the pressure doctors and medical workers faced while treating patients during the protests, along with intimidation from the police. Such intimidation clearly curtailed their ability to give necessary medical attention to the injured.
The group of first aiders, whose identities will remain anonymous for their safety, recalled the following:
“A large number of police escorted those injured protesters in the hospital. Doctors and nurses working there reported that the police have tried to disrupt the clinical care they provided to the admitted injured protesters… The police insisted on staying and witnessing the consultation, physical examination, and even going into the operating theatre during the operation.
“Our colleagues have explained to the police that patients’ rights and privacy must be protected and declined all those unreasonable requests. The police then intimidated them by the risk of breaking the law, asked for their personal information, including name, position, and even Hong Kong identity card number.”
This harrowing story was not uncommon. In fact, it was supported by hundreds of corroborating accounts.
Our report concludes that humanitarian aid and medical workers have been subject to a variety of treatment that falls short of international humanitarian law and principles, international human rights, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration — including intimidation, harassment, physical violence and arrests.
We also found that there was “no evidence” to suggest that the actions of humanitarian workers in any way justified the Hong Kong Police Force stripping them of the protections to which they are legally entitled.
Ultimately, we found that the Hong Kong Police Force had routinely interfered with medical treatment of protesters, on the street, en route to medical facilities and within hospitals. Consequently, many protesters did not receive the medical attention they required in time, or at all.
The medical care of Hong Kong’s general population was also jeopardised, as the independence and legitimacy of hospitals, ambulances, and medical workers have been undermined by deeply intrusive police interference.
Their actions have also jeopardised the traditional respect in which the Hong Kong Police Force was always held.
The breakdown of trust between police and public was vividly illustrated when one young doctor fearfully told parliamentarians that, as a consequence of even speaking to us about what he had seen and experienced, police officers “could come crashing through my door, I would, disappear and never be seen again”.
That is why our All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong calls on the UK government to take immediate action. Our report asks the government to impose sanctions on senior Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam; to work with international organisations, including the UN, to further investigate the conduct of the enforcement agencies; and to engage with Hong Kong authorities to strengthen human rights protections across the city.
In defence of democracy and in support of Hongkongers, to whom we have a historical, legal and moral duty, the UK must act.
Darren Mann in the Hong Kong Free Press
By Darren Mann
One of the many consequences of the current pandemic has been a recognition of the essential place of healthcare workers in society. For many weeks, we have been applauding them in a weekly ritual. Contrast these sentiments with what is happening to nurses, doctors and allied-health professionals in Hong Kong — a city whose medical system is modelled on that of our own NHS.
Throughout the past year, the work of volunteer medical personnel has been criminalised, and the wider health sector weaponised by the government against the people. And the passage of the new national security law now renders the provision of first-aid to persons injured during street protests an illegal act of supporting terrorism.
A civil rights movement has been raging in Hong Kong for the past year: idealistic young people — students and workers — seeking representative and participatory governance, pitted against one of the world’s best equipped law enforcement organisations. Once self-lauded as ‘Asia’s Finest’, the Hong Kong Police Force has morphed from a community law enforcement body into a paramilitary organ of state suppression.
Much of the regrettable violence seen at large-scale demonstrations has been the result of collective anger at a repressive policing posture that has sought to frustrate the legitimate public right to peaceful protest. And that youthful “Be Water” movement is itself now being water-boarded by the world’s dominant autocracy in an ideological dispute as uncivil as it is unbalanced.
Can such a contest even be governed by rules ? Yes, because even the bloodiest of violent conflicts are answerable to the moral code of warfare. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 that embody the laws of war were manifestly extended to within-state armed violence by Additional Protocol II in 1977. Their spirit customarily holds in the protection of citizens against abuses by state law enforcement bodies and security forces.
These principles — also known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL) — exist to ensure the primacy of humanity (relief of suffering and the protection of human life, health and dignity) over operational intent in violent disputes. Chief amongst the precepts is “Distinction” which provides for the safeguarding of the injured, whose inalienable right to life imposes on all parties an obligation to protect emergency medical workers and treatment facilities.
Respect for, and prohibition of abuse of, the symbols of humanitarian protection (Red Cross, Crescent, Crystal and equivalents) are obligatory. But be in no doubt, these protections are as paper thin as the treaty documents they are inscribed upon.
In response to credible reports of wide-scale abuses against humanitarian medical workers at the Hong Kong protests, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong has conducted an inquiry, obtaining first hand evidence and eye-witness testimony from volunteers at the front line, journalists and police.
The findings are shocking. The Hong Kong Police Force systematically harassed, physically assaulted, unlawfully arrested and detained humanitarian medical workers treating the injured at the sites of demonstrations. Equally concerning were patterns of abuses in ambulances and even in hospitals in the pursuit of law enforcement objectives.
Compounded by the obstruction of medical care to the injured and denial of the healthcare safe space as a consequence of political expression, these appalling infringements amount to violations not only of international humanitarian customs, but also of human rights law. Needless to say, such conduct is utterly inconsistent with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
How quickly ‘made in Hong Kong’ has become ‘maimed in Hong Kong’.
Why does this matter, and what can and should be done ? Erosion of international treaties and customs should always be vigorously challenged, as tolerance of undermining them inevitably leads to acceptance at a diminished level. The APPG has rightly recommended that a formal investigation should be conducted by the United Nations, supported as necessary by the International Bar Association. Transparency and accountability are essential here. If the result is censures, sanctions, or even prosecution at the International Criminal Court, then so be it.
Now that civic trust has collapsed, and the moral equivalent of “war crimes” are being committed in one of the world’s most iconic cities, what more does the international community need to see before it takes action ?
Let’s consider the consequences of inaction: the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre has just recently passed. As memories fade, it should be recalled with poignancy that amongst the estimated 10,000 dead students were the bodies of the many courageous nurses and doctors attending the wounded at first-aid stations. True to the finest traditions of humanitarianism, they were the last to leave the battlefield. They fell at their posts. Does anybody now believe that Beijing’s attitudes to volunteer healthcare workers has softened since?
As Hong Kong faces its “Last Post”, neither its citizens nor carers can clap — their hands are cuffed. Humanitarianism is one of the ties that binds us as people worldwide: it is time for the international community to reassert that volunteers working under its symbols of protection are not to be fettered.
Dr Darren Mann is a British surgeon, humanitarian law advocate, and a permanent resident of Hong Kong for the past 25 years.