The Hong Kong police were under fire on Thursday over accusations of using excessive force, endangering people's safety and targeting frontline journalists, with the Bar Association leading the charge.
The association issued a statement saying it is gravely concerned about the police’s use of “wholly unnecessary force” against largely unarmed protesters during Wednesday's anti-extradition protest as well as against journalists covering the events.
The statement followed a large amount of video footage being shared online, depicting images that include officers apparently aiming shots at protesters at eye level; at least half a dozen fully-geared policemen hitting a lone unarmed protester with batons; as well as an officer shooting pepper spray at close range at a single unarmed middle-aged female protester.
There were also footage showing officers pushing and shoving, and verbally abusing journalists wearing press passes who had made their identities clear.
The lawyers said video clips of Wednesday’s rally showed the force apparently acting “in disregard of the safety and well-being of protesters and frontline journalists covering the protests”.
“In these cases the police may well have over-stepped their lawful powers in maintaining public order”, the statement added.
The association said it condemns any act of violence used by any party.
It also calls on the government to seriously question whether it’s still worth pursuing the extradition bill in light of the unrest and instability it has caused in society.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association is also appealing to media workers to provide witness accounts on any police abuse against them during the protests, adding they will be filed to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) monitoring the force’s operations.
In an interview with RTHK, former civil service secretary Joseph Wong called on the the IPCC to look into whether excessive force was used by officers.
Soon after firing teargas and rubber bullets against the protesters on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo told the media that officers had to take action after their defence lines came under attack. The police chief also accused protesters of engaging in violent behaviour.
Amnesty International Hong Kong on Wednesday had accused police of violating international law by using tear gas and non-lethal guns against “largely peaceful protesters".
Reporters Without Borders also released a statement calling on the police to “respect freedom of the press and to refrain from attacking journalists” and investigate alleged abuses.
Police under fire over 'wholly unnecessary force'
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