Last news from Hong Kong (24 June)

, by CREERY Jennifer, CHENG Kris, GRUNDY Tom

 32 former Hong Kong officials and politicians appeal to gov’t to scrap extradition bill

by Jennifer Creery
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/24/32-former-hong-kong-officials-politicians-appeal-govt-scrap-extradition-bill/

Thirty-two former Hong Kong government officials and politicians made another urgent appeal to Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday to withdraw the suspended extradition bill, two days after protesters laid siege to police headquarters.
The group also urged Lam and police chief Stephen Lo to retract the use of the term “riot” to describe clashes that broke out on June 12 – a designation that could land participants in prison for up to 10 years under a colonial-era law. They also called for an independent enquiry to be established into alleged police brutality.

Photo (Dan Garrett).
https://www.hongkongfp.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/64894893_2516634668346580_139306461086875648_o.jpg

“We are a group of people who love and have served Hong Kong for many years,” their statement read. “Since our urgent appeal on 14 June, we have been watching recent developments in Hong Kong with even greater concern and apprehension. That is why we jointly write again, sincerely urging you to meet the following requests as soon as possible, so our society can return to normal.”

The joint statement comes after 27 former government officials and politicians made a similar appeal last Friday to withdraw the bill, urging pro-establishment legislators – who hold the majority in the Legislative Council – to vote against it, while calling on members of the governing team to tell Lam to yield to public opinion and resign if their advice is ignored.
The letter was signed by democrats such as Martin Lee, Cyd Ho and Audrey Eu, ex-chief secretary Anson Chan, as well as barrister Margaret Ng and writer Joseph Lian.

Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of protests over legal amendments proposed in February, which would enable the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China. Critics from across sectors have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections. The bill was suspended last Saturday due in part to the recent unrest.

Photo: june 21 - Protesters besiege police headquarters. Photo: Isaac Yee.
https://www.hongkongfp.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/june-21-extradition-protest-isaac-yee-37-Copy.jpg

Thousands blocked entrances to the police headquarters in Wan Chai on Friday calling for accountability over alleged misconduct relating to clashes that broke out last week, when police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against crowds advancing forwards and throwing objects. The protest followed an anti-extradition bill march last Sunday, which organisers said was attended by two million people.

‘Let the truth speak’

Peter Lai, a signatory and former Secretary for Security from 1995 to 1998, said the government should rebuild public trust and heal divisions in society after recent events.

VIDEO: Protesters swarm around police HQ https://youtu.be/0EC7ja5mQlI

“The key priority for Hong Kong now is to heal the deep divides in the community opened up by recent events,” he said. “As the history of other communities with entrenched conflicts show, truth and reconciliation must go together. Only with truth, impartially and thoroughly revealed by a respected body of public trust, can wounds be healed and the task of rebuilding trust begins. Let the truth speak.”

 23 June 2019. Urgent Appeal.

We are a group of people who love and have served Hong Kong for many years. Since our urgent appeal on 14 June, we have been watching recent developments in Hong Kong with even greater concern and apprehension. That is why we jointly write again, sincerely urging you to meet the following requests as soon as possible, so our society can return to normal.

1. Withdraw the Bill immediately

The government has refused to withdraw the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislative (Amendment) Bill 2019. [The suspension] is not the same as withdrawal. It only means cancelling the notice to resume the second reading of the bill. Withdrawal means cancelling the bill altogether, so if the government wishes to retable, it has to start the process all over again as a completely new bill. The government says it has no plan to continue and the bill will automatically lapse at the end of this legislative term in July 2020. But during this period, the government’s refusal to withdraw the bill is fueling suspicion and instability. Society is unable to resume normality. At this moment, with the complete loss of trust, your initial intent is no longer relevant; further, there have been precedents where unpopular bills were withdrawn.

2. Set up an independent enquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance

Over a million citizens of Hong Kong protested the Government’s mishandling of the Amendment Bill at every level, on two consecutive Sundays in June. This was unprecedented in Hong Kong’s history. There are countless allegations that the Police used excessive force on 12 June, while there are also allegations that some protesters were throwing bricks at the Police. Surely, the truth deserves to be investigated openly and fairly, so that justice can be served, wounds can heal and mistrust can be removed. If truth remains suppressed then we fear that such conflicts will continue, and may lead regrettably to more bloodshed and irreparable damage.

We therefore urge that an independent commission of inquiry be established, under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance and headed by one or more persons with public credibility, with a broad remit to investigate into all aspects of the government’s handling of the amendment bill including, but not restricted to, the circumstances of the police-citizen conflict that it gave rise to.

3. Immediately retract the riot label used by you and the Police Commissioner

According to the Police, they arrested 32 people on 12 June, eight have their loitering charges dropped, of the remaining 24, five have been charged with rioting.

One of the loudest chants on 16 June was “there is no riot, only tyranny.” According to the Public Order Ordinance, a person is guilty of riot if he takes part in an unlawful assembly as defined in law. If there was no riot on 12 June, there is no basis to charge anyone with rioting. Conversely, if there was a riot, all those assembled are riotously assembled and are guilty of the offence of [rioting].

There is reason to believe that many who marched and many who surrounded the Police Headquarters [on Friday] were dissatisfied with the label of “riot” that you and the Police Commissioner have put on the events of 12 June. Hong Kong people demonstrated peacefully. Many leaders and media around the world have saluted the high calibre and civic spirit of the Hong Kong protesters. It is ironic that our own government should denigrate our people as “rioters”. The Chief Executive and the Police Commissioner should immediately remove and withdraw this unreasonable “riot” label.

Full list of signatories: Elizabeth Bosher, David Chu, Audrey Eu, Cyd Ho, Ambrose Ho, Ho Chun-yan Albert, Lee Wing-tat, Martin Lee, Li Wah-ming, Allen Lee, Margaret Ng, Lam Kui-shing Conrad, Michael Sze, Anson Chan, Chan Ka-lok Kenneth, Michael Yin, Alan Leong, Cheung Man Kwong, Sin Chung Kai, Andrew Wong, Cheung Kwok Che, Yeung Sum, Andrew Cheng, Emily Lau, Au Yiu-kai, Peter Lai, Alice Siu, Cheung Yuk-tong, Fang Meng-sang, Lo Chi-kin, Joseph Lian, Lee Cheuk-yan

 Five Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protesters were arrested at public hospitals whilst seeking treatment

by Kris Cheng
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/24/five-hong-kong-anti-extradition-bill-protesters-arrested-public-hospitals-whilst-seeking-treatment/

At least five anti-extradition bill protesters were arrested at public hospitals whilst seeking treatment, a group of 82 medical and legal professionals said on Sunday. They accused the police of spreading “white terror.”

The group said at a press conference that three protesters were arrested at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, one at Kwong Wah Hospital and one at Yan Chai Hospital. Of the five, four were held on suspicion of rioting and one for unlawful assembly.

They said the police should “behave,” and stop harassing health care providers and patients and respect the privacy of those being treated.

Photo:Medical legal professionals police behave (Citizen News)
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Alfred Wong, a medical sector elector in the chief executive election committee, said a police officer must fulfil legal requirements before obtaining information from hospitals.

“The law does not say that a police officer can just come and ask for certain information. Police are not the law,” Wong, also a public hospital doctor, said. “They must follow existing procedures. If the patient does not agree, they must apply for a search order, and file a request for a medical report.”

During the June 12 protests, tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags were deployed to clear protesters occupying roads, as crowds pushed forward into police lines throwing objects. At least 76 were injured and 32 were arrested, including eight who were released unconditionally later.

Photo: Alfred Wong (inmediahk.net)
https://www.hongkongfp.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/48112561516_a4528e1e93_k-768x512.jpg

Hung Tsz-yin, a health service sector elector of the chief executive election committee, said that some police officers did not wear their warrant cards and showed up at medical cubicles to eavesdrop on medical staff after the protests. Hung did not mention which hospital was involved, in order to protect the medical staff.

“One used a rather threatening tone and told nurses to give them patients’ information,” Hung said, apparently referring to accusations that some nurses gave patient data to the police. “Nurses were already very busy. When they were threatened to give certain information, they were concerned over needing to bear legal responsibility.”

Hung urged the public to understand the pressure that nurses have faced recently, because they have never been put under such situations.

Chris Ng, convener of the Progressive Lawyers’ Group, said the admissibility evidence gathered at hospitals may be challenged in court if it was gathered by police in an unlawful manner. But he said police may also point to evidence that was not gathered at hospitals.

Photo: Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Wikimedia Commons).

In response, the police posted on its Facebook page on Sunday night that – under section 50 of the Police Force Ordinance – it is lawful for police officers to apprehend anyone who they reasonably suspect of being guilty of jail-able offences. It said an arrest can be made without a warrant.

It said officers stationed at emergency rooms will actively follow up with cases in which patients have suspicious wounds.

“Police will not block anyone from receiving treatment at hospital when investigating any cases or performing any operations,” it said. “Police absolutely respect patients’ privacy and their other rights including hiring a legal representative.”

In response to the controversy, a spokesperson for Queen Elizabeth Hospital said on Monday that it will enact its existing complaint-handling mechanism to request a report on the improper handling of data by frontline A&E staff.

Data access

Last Monday, Hong Kong’s medical sector lawmaker said that he had proof that police can access the Hospital Authority’s system to check details of injured protesters who were admitted into the public hospital system, without using any special logins.

The Authority later announced the establishment of a special task group to conduct a quick and focused review into information technology security. But it maintained no access to its Accident and Emergency information system was given to any government department, including the police.

 Over 100 Hong Kong anti-extradition law protesters occupy Revenue Tower foyer

by Tom Grundy
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/24/just-100-hong-kong-anti-extradition-law-protesters-occupy-revenue-tower-foyer/

Over 100 anti-extradition law protesters occupied the foyer of the Revenue Tower in Wan Chai on Monday, in a fresh act of civil disobedience to hinder the government’s operations.

Activists first convened at the rear of the legislature before deciding to move eastwards to protest at the government’s finance department at around noon.
Many wore black t-shirts and facemasks as they staged a sit-in protest in the lobby. No police were visible on the scene, and no group or leader appeared to be in charge of the demonstration.
Protesters allowed staff working in the offices above to leave, though few were allowed back in.
As they left the building, protesters told them: “Thank you for the hard work, you can leave now.”
By 12:50pm, some protesters were singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of protests over legal amendments proposed in February, which would enable the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China. Critics from across sectors have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.
The bill has was suspended by the government, though protesters on Monday continued to call for a complete withdrawal.
They also demanded that police be held accountable for alleged cases of brutality, that arrested protesters be released, and that the authorities withdraw references to “riot” to describe clashes on June 12.

Sam Newman, a 28-year-old teacher, was obstructed from entering the complex while trying to sort his taxes before a trip abroad. He told HKFP he travelled from Discovery Bay, but supports the anti-extradition protesters’ cause.
“I’m a pretty reasonable person so I understand what they’re doing but it’s a little frustrating having travelled over an hour to get here,” he said, adding that he would have to take more time off work to come again.

Additional reporting: Kris Cheng and Jennifer Creery.

 ‘Lying has become a norm’: Hong Kong police falsely accused protesters of blocking ambulances, democrats say

by Kris Cheng
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/24/lying-become-norm-hong-kong-police-falsely-accused-protesters-blocking-ambulances-democrats-say/

Pro-democracy lawmakers have said the police have falsely accused protesters of blocking ambulances as they arrived at Wan Chai’s police headquarters during a protest last Friday.

Protesters surrounded the building for almost 15 hours, demanding Police Commissioner Stephen Lo speak to them and arrested anti-extradition law protesters be released. They also called for the characterisation of the June 12 protests as a “riot” be withdrawn.

Police said in a statement that, during the demonstration, ambulances were called at 9:33pm to receive staff who needed medical attention, including personnel who had long-term illnesses, cancer, and one who was pregnant. The force claimed that the ambulances took over an hour to arrive because of obstruction intentionally caused by protesters.

But protesters said that when paramedics arrived at the police headquarters it took 20 minutes for them to open the gate. An HKFP reporter observed protesters making way for medics, with the ambulances leaving the area at around midnight.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki and Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung were on the scene at the time. They said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that an ambulance arrived right outside the premises.

“Ambulances had no problem entering at all. Regardless of how many people were there, people always opened up a path for ambulances,” said Kwok, who is also a doctor. He added that there were also some first-aiders responding.

Patrick Lee, a deputy director at the Hong Kong Police College, arrived on the scene at around 11pm on Friday, saying that he had finished work at the college. When interviewed by reporters at the time, he claimed that protesters did not allow paramedics to go into the police headquarters.

“Is it the case that our staff are not humans to you?” Lee said at the time.
But Kwok said Lee was telling lies, as he had checked asked every single person exiting the building if they need any help from him as a doctor: “No-one barred [police staff] from coming out,” Kwok said. “[Lee’s remarks] show us that police tell lies.”
“I have no confidence in what police say anymore,” he added.

Cheung said police were clearly telling lies to “smear protesters.”
“Lying has become a norm for officials. I cannot believe they would lie when we were there and the media were live-broadcasting the scene,” he said.

During the June 12 protests, tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags were deployed to clear protesters occupying roads, as crowds pushed forward into police lines throwing objects. At least 76 were injured and 32 were arrested, including eight who were released unconditionally later.

Legal amendments were proposed in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China. Lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections. The bill was suspended after mass protests.

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