Police brutality and political prosecution together are a toxic combination, says new Hong Kong Watch report

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A new Hong Kong Watch briefing documents the ongoing violations of fundamental rights and freedoms by the Hong Kong Police Force over the past 10-week anti-extradition bill protests and calls on the Hong Kong government to initiate a judge-led independent inquiry into police violence.

The briefing, Police Brutality and Political Prosecution in Hong Kong, says that the toxic combination of police brutality and political prosecution of protestors will only guarantee to stir greater protests. Categorising the protests as riots and the protestors as rioters further fuel anger and distrust towards the authorities. The briefing noted that:

“Hong Kong’s rioting laws are vaguely worded and carry disproportionate sentencing, and there is a history of young protestors being sentenced to years behind bars under what appear to be politicised charges.”

Based on review of media reports and available evidence, the report finds that:

  1. Tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and batons have been used dangerously and indiscriminately by the Hong Kong Police Force, resulting in serious injuries; 

  2.  There is significant evidence that the Hong Kong Police Force have colluded with violent triad gangsters to deter protest;  

  3. There have been violations of press freedom, as journalists have been targeted; 

  4. ‘Rioting’ charges are being used against protestors as a deterrent effect. This is unacceptable as the city’s rioting legislation is so easily abused, carrying excessive sentencing.   

The briefing makes the following recommendations:


  • Initiate a judge-led independent inquiry into police violence;

  • Drop rioting charges against protestors;

  • Introduce universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council.


  • Stop selling riot equipment to the Hong Kong government;

  • Call on the Hong Kong government to institute an independent inquiry into police brutality;

  • Consider using Magnitsky legislation to hold perpetrators of abuses to account.


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