20 October 2014. CIVICUS is deeply worried about attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong. Police have ramped up their efforts to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators calling for universal voting rights and an open ballot to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017.
Over the weekend, from 17- 19 October, more than 200 protesting citizens were injured in police raids on the camps of demonstrators. At least 30 demonstrators were arrested and face a wide-range of questionable charges ranging from damaging property, disorderly conduct, weapons possession and resisting arrest.
Even with a large majority of Hong Kong citizens calling for open and transparent elections, the Chinese government is unwilling to implement democratic reforms and is blaming a so called ‘third-force’ for instigating the protests. As the protests move into its fourth week, law enforcement agencies have begun using excessive force to try and silence law abiding citizens.
China’s central government has dismissed calls for democratic reforms in Hong Kong, maintaining that candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive will be nominated by a 1200 member committee, loyal to Beijing. Article 45 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution stipulates that the selection of the chief executive will be done through universal suffrage following nominations by a representative committee in line with democratic processes. But the government has repeatedly refused to comply with this provision, inciting month-long protests that have been supressed with violent tactics.
On 14 October, police dispersed demonstrators by using pepper spray and other harsh measures. At least 45 demonstrators were arrested while others sustained injuries requiring medical treatment. On 13 October, suspected government agents wearing masks to hide their identities and armed with crowbars and cutting tools invaded protest sites removing barricades and assaulting protesters. Authorities accused them of forceful entry into government buildings and of participating in illegal gatherings.
Use of excessive force as well as covert acts of intimidation have elicited support for the protesters and at one point at least 50,000 demonstrators flooded the main roads in the territory. Currently, talks between the Hong Kong government and protesters have been rescheduled for 21 October at the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine after they were previously called off by the authorities.
CIVICUS urges democratic governments around the world to engage Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to respect citizens’ democratic aspirations and their right to peaceful protest. The international community and democratic states in particular have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong as they exercise their right to peaceful protest.
*Earlier this month, CIVICUS interviewed an activist in Hong Kong who chose to remain anonymous and urged the government to “listen to the voices of its people.”