United Nations special rapporteurs have told Beijing they have serious concerns about the "harassment, intimidation and arrests" of healthcare workers and first-aiders during Hong Kong's anti-government protests, as well as police delaying treatment for injured demonstrators.
A letter to China's delegation at the United Nations dated February 19, which has just been made public, asks for details as to the legal basis for such arrests and detentions, and how they are consistent with the authorities' obligations under international human rights law.
Three special rapporteurs covering areas including the right to peaceful assembly, as well as a member of the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, say their information is that doctors, nurses, and other medical workers have attended Hong Kong protest sites to provide "impartial healthcare to anyone in need, be they police, firefighters, protesters, the press or the public".
But in return, they have allegedly "been harassed, intimidated or arrested" by the police.
The rapporteurs note that large numbers of the volunteers have been hand-cuffed with zip-cords while "in the course of performing their legitimate healthcare duties".
Some have been arrested for "rioting" despite proving their identification and qualifications to officers, and in some instances, the medics were detained for as long as 30 hours, reportedly with no access to a lawyer, the rapporteurs say.
The letter says the police have asserted on occasions that they had intelligence so suggest "rioters" were masquerading as medical professionals and first-aiders.
"However, it is not clear why arrests are necessary for identification purposes, if the police could simply verify their names and release healthcare workers for them to continue providing aid to those in need," the rapporteurs say.
They also flag up several incidents where police are believed to have prevented medical workers from attending to injured people, including when officers raided Prince Edward MTR Station in August last year, and when an ambulance was in November stopped from reaching injured student Chow Tsz-lok, who later died following a suspected fall at a multi-storey car park in Tseung Kwan O.
"Documented cases show that police officers have often denied prompt access to medical care (despite the serious injuries some arrested persons have suffered) and have delayed securing an ambulance until five to 10 hours".
The rapporteurs give an example of one such incident, saying as per their sources, in August last year police had arrested a man and zip-tied his hands behind his back for several hours disregarding his complaints of intense pain. He was only taken to hospital around five hours later.
"He suffered multiple fractures and doctors indicated that the nature of the injuries was extremely serious and clearly the result of severe and intense beating."
As well as requesting details of the legal basis for such arrests, the letter asks China to provide information on what measures the authorities have taken to protect healthcare workers and to ensure they can quickly reach people injured during protests.
UN raises alarm over protest arrests of HK medics
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