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Tanya Chan addresses UNHR Council in Geneva

2019-09-17 HKT 00:28
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  • Chan had been invited by the non-governmental organisation UN Watch to take its allotted spot. Photo: AFP
    Chan had been invited by the non-governmental organisation UN Watch to take its allotted spot. Photo: AFP
A Hong Kong lawmaker has called on the UN to launch an international investigation into a police crackdown on pro-democracy protests, voicing alarm at escalating "brutality".

"Hong Kong is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis," Tanya Chan told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, asking it to urgently discuss the situation and to dispatch investigators to probe abuses.

Chan, of Hong Kong's pro-democracy Civic Party, was earlier this year handed a suspended eight-month jail sentence over her role in the student-led Umbrella Movement protests that brought parts of the city to a standstill in 2014.

She was invited by the non-governmental organisation UN Watch to take its allotted spot and briefly address the council after more than three months of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Pointing out that she was speaking as Hong Kong on Monday entered its 100th day of protests, Chan cautioned that "there is no sign that police will exercise restraint".

"This is a result of the lack of democracy in Hong Kong, as the government is not held accountable for its endorsement of police abuse," she said, maintaining that police "call protesters cockroaches" and see violence against them as "acceptable pest control".

She urged UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to "support our appeal for this council to convene an urgent session and to establish a mission of inquiry to ensure the human rights of the people of Hong Kong."

Bachelet has voiced measured concern over violence by all sides in Hong Kong and urged the authorities to conduct a "prompt, independent, impartial investigation" into alleged excessive force by police against protesters.

But so far, there is little sign that she or the rights council, which counts China among its 47 members, will back an international investigation.

The protest movement is the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997.

Under a deal signed with Britain, Hong Kong was allowed to keep its unique freedoms for 50 years.

But democracy activists accuse Beijing of reneging on those promises by tightening political control over the semi-autonomous territory and refusing calls for universal suffrage.

The pro-democracy movement has vowed to continue until key demands are met, including an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and universal suffrage.

Asked by AFP if she feared China might send in the army to end the protests, Chan said she did not think Beijing would see the need, since Hong Kong police "are actually doing their job for them".

Hong Kong riot police on Sunday fired tear gas and water cannon at pro-democracy protesters who were hurling rocks and petrol bombs, capping a 15th consecutive weekend of big peaceful rallies followed by clashes.

"We are really worried about the situation, because there is obviously an escalation of police brutality," Chan told AFP.

"I am afraid that loss of life may happen if the escalation of brutality by police continues," she said.

Chan stressed the need to put an international spotlight on Hong Kong, especially in the run-up to the October 1 celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Meanwhile, the Police have expressed deep regret at Chan's accusations.

In a statement, they said the protests had become increasingly tense and violent since June and that protesters had thrown petrol bombs, started fires and paralysed traffic. They said officers had always exercised a high level of restraint when trying restore public order. (AFP)

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Last updated: 2019-09-17 HKT 02:39