Following the most violent confrontations of the Hong Kong protests so far during a police siege at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong Man-Kei Tam said:
“By laying siege to Polytechnic University and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people trying to flee, the Hong Kong Police are yet again fanning the flames of violence when they should be trying to defuse it.
“It is the police’s responsibility to de-escalate this situation, but instead of assisting injured protesters trapped at the University they are unlawfully arresting the medics attempting to treat the wounded.
“The increasingly violent nature of the Hong Kong protests and the resultant injuries to bystanders and others is alarming, but the heavy-handed police response to largely peaceful demonstrations over the past months is the main cause of this escalation. Their threat today that protesters could face live ammunition is a further aggressive move that heightens the risk of tragedy on the streets.
“At a time when Hong Kong needs level-headedness and humanity from those in power, it is instead getting tear gas, beatings and threats of lethal force.”
Since Sunday, the police have laid siege to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in an ongoing standoff. They have deployed tear gas and water cannon, including in an apparent attempt to keep people from leaving the scene, while protesters have retaliated with petrol bombs.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students’ Union has said hundreds of protesters, volunteer medics, journalists and social workers are still on campus, many of them injured. The police have rounded up medical volunteers and reporters attempting to leave campus and reportedly arrested more than 100 people in the neighbourhood.
In the early hours of Monday morning, a police spokesman said in a Facebook Live post that protesters using lethal weapons to attack officers could possibly face live bullets in response. According to media reports, the police have since fired warning shots.
Amnesty International has called for an independent and effective investigation into the use of force by the police since the start of large-scale anti-Extradition Bill protests in April. This includes excessive use of force by police in the largely peaceful protest on 12 June and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.