The BWI is outraged at the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Hong Kong anti-riot squads against protesters last Sunday. It extends its solidarity with the trade union movement in its support over ten consecutive weeks of pro-democracy protests.
The movement was sparked by the proposed legislative amendment that would allow the extradition to China of Hong Kong residents. This would, in effect, nullify rule of law and subject those accused of crimes to an arbitrary and politically-controlled system of justice. It would also violate the “one China, two-systems” agreement. The Chief Executive of the territory has suspended, but not withdrawn the legislation.
The protests against the legislation and the over-reaction by police have led to broader protests covering other democracy and autonomy issues. The movement has publicly-declared five demands:
· The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill;
· The end of government misrepresentation of protests as “riots”;
· The unconditional release of arrested protesters with charges dropped;
· An independent inquiry into police behaviour; and
· Implementation of genuine universal suffrage.
Organised protest marches have involved at least two million people. The mobilization has included a general strike as well as occupation of the Hong Kong International Airport that caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
“What is taking place in Hong Kong is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary. “Students and young activists have been at the forefront of this movement and have combined vigour and determination for liberation with new organising techniques. They have shown great courage and have refused to be intimidated. These activists are demonstrating deep solidarity with their fellow citizens and are inspiring many others, including the trade union movement. Hong Kong, we are with you.”
The longevity of the movement has resulted in growing repression and violence from the Hong Kong Government, with anti-riot squads exercising excessive and disproportionate force. This has included shooting bean bag bullets into a young woman’s eye (causing permanent blindness), brutally beating people, police in disguise to more easily make arrests and launching teargas canisters in subway stations. There are reports that gangs from Hokkien are being deployed to perpetrate violence within residential housing blocks to discourage activists and residents from joining and engaging in the protests.
More than 700 people – including those supplying first aid – have been arrested. The youngest person in detention is 13 years old and could face as much as 14 years in prison.
“We remain extremely disturbed by the reports of the disproportionate use of violence and the use of undercover police as provocateurs spreading violence,” said Yuson. “The people of Hong Kong have spoken loudly with their actions and demanded respect and improvements in its compact with Beijing. We call on the Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to respond to the reasonable demands of the Hong Kong people’s movement and rapidly end the crisis.”