Hong Kong: Riot charges against protesters a ‘chilling warning’

In response to 44 people in Hong Kong being charged with ‘rioting’ in connection to protests over the weekend, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said:

“By using such vague charges against pro-democracy protesters, the Hong Kong authorities seem intent on sending a chilling warning to anyone considering taking part in future protests.

“While there was violence over the weekend, the definitions of illegal assembly and rioting under Hong Kong law are so broad they fall far short of international standards. It is highly questionable that individuals facing these sweeping charges would have a fair chance of defending themselves at trial.

“With these ambiguous charges, combined with the repeated use of excessive force by police and the outright banning of some protests, the authorities are showing a flagrant disregard to the right to peaceful assembly.

“Many people in Hong Kong will today be questioning why charges have been swiftly brought against pro-democracy protesters, yet no-one involved in the vicious beatings at Yuen Leung station more than a week ago has so far been charged.

“The violent scenes during last weekend’s protests were in part because Hong Kong police chose to inflame a tense situation rather than de-escalate it. We urge the police to adopt a less confrontational approach to future demonstrations and instead facilitate the right to peaceful protest.”