Rights Group Details Litany of Police Violence, Abuses During Hong Kong Protests

The violent sieges of two of its universities have left indelible scars on the city's collective memory, students and lecturers say.

Rights Group Details Litany of Police Violence, Abuses During Hong Kong Protests

A Hong Kong-based human rights group has detailed a litany of police violence and abuse of power during last year's protests in a report to the U.K. parliament, as sporadic protests continue in the city in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a damning report, the Hong Kong Civil Rights Observer described several cases of excess use of force, degrading treatment, and physical abuse of arrestees by the Hong Kong police in a report dated April 2020.

It also joined Hong Kong doctors and paramedics in slamming the harassment, arrest, and physical abuse of medical personnel helping the injured during the protests.

In an Aug. 11 incident, police fired tear gas canisters horizontally in the direction of first aid volunteers and journalists, it quoted one interviewee using the pseudonym Timothy as saying.

"A group of police tactical squad unit officers was subduing a group of protesters and Timothy got subdued in the same action," the report said. "The police tore his respirator off his face and tied his wrists with a cable tie while the other police officers were deploying tear gas, making Timothy lose consciousness partly and vomit."

Timothy was then later denied access to medical attention, in violation of his rights as a detainee, and later suffered long-term nausea as a result of tear gas exposure, the report said.

"Timothy requested to see the doctor several times as he kept vomiting but was ignored," it said. "While he was resting his head and arms on the table, a police officer asked whether he wanted to become a floating corpse."

This was a reference to several floating bodies found in Hong Kong waters since the anti-extradition movement expanded into a full-on campaign for fully democratic elections and official accountability.

'In a worse situation'

In an incident on June 12, a first-aider identified as Peter saw a teenager being covered in tear gas or pepper spray and left for 10 minutes before being put in an ambulance, during which time police prevented first-aiders from treating him.

"I think Hong Kong people are in a worse situation than war captives or prisoners of war," Peter told the CRO. "Prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva Conventions. People in Hong Kong are not."

Another first-aider identified as Charles was shot in the face by a non-lethal bullet fired by police, despite wearing a reflective vest clearly identifying him as a medical volunteer, the report said.

"The police searched Charles and many others on the street. Charles’ bag was also searched," its said. "Charles observed that some female first aiders were searched by male police officers on the street."

Later, at the siege of Hong Kong's Polytechnic University on Nov. 17, Charles reported being verbally abused by police, who called the first-aiders "cockroaches," telling them that they shouldn't count on immunity from arrest.

"The police claimed they did not need my help as they themselves have first aid qualifications," he told CRO. "I know they are qualified; the problem is they weren't treating the injured."

Recurring nightmares

On the same day, first-aider Alex, clearly identifiable as a first aider with reflective clothing, reported that police pointed what appeared to be AR-15 semi-automatic rifles at first-aiders from a high level about 150 meters away.

Police claimed the group were suspected of rioting, and asked them to wait for a body search before leaving the area, later arresting Alex.

"During the arrest, the police forcefully pulled Alex, spraining his waist and thigh" before making the arrestees watch as they fired high volumes of tear gas into the Poly U campus, the report found.

"After the arrest, Alex experienced recurrent nightmares of the scenes. He has been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder by a psychiatrist and a psychologist," the report said.

Volunteer medic Kyle was handcuffed with cable ties on the same night, and kept waiting at the police station for 15 hours before being sent to hospital after requesting medical care.

He was also denied access to a lawyer, and was forced to make a statement without one present, CRO said.

Beaten by police

First-aider Harry described being surrounded by a group of police officers, with his head, arms, body, and back beaten by their fists and elbows for around ten to 20 seconds, then pinned to the ground.

"The police kept asking Harry not to resist. Harry reiterated he was a social worker and did not resist. The police kicked him and hit him with their baton/batons," the report said.

Hong Kong-based doctor Darren Mann said all injured persons have the right to receive medical assistance, which can be administered by anyone present with enough knowledge or training.

"They shouldn't be obstructed, let alone harassed or intimated," Mann, who penned a highly critical report in The Lancet detailing the mass arrests of medics at Poly U last November, he told RFA in a recent interview.

Mann said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights believes that there is evidence that the Hong Kong Police used ambulances to transport police officers and weapons instead of transporting the injured.

Police also arrested people in ambulances, he said.

Barriers, barbed wire

At the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), where police fired thousands of tear gas canisters in the space of a single day after protesters and students barricaded themselves inside campus, the No. 2 footbridge that became the focal point of fierce fighting reopened this week, complete with prison-like barriers and curls of barbed wire.

A protester and CUHK student who gave only the nickname Tom said that, for him, the campus no longer feels safe, as students prepare to return to their studies.

"That day was the first time I felt that this place that was so safe, and which should have protected us, was violated," Tom said.

Police fired a total of 2,330 tear gas canisters, 1,700 rubber bullets, 434 textile bullets, and 159 sponge bullets on the CUHK campus on Nov. 12 alone, as well as deploying water cannon.

The students responded with Molotov cocktails, bricks, and other makeshift projectiles, using any objects to hand to build defenses to prevent riot officers storming the campus.

"Sometimes students report finding bullets, rubber bullets, tear gas canisters still lying around the place," Tom said. "When this place was violated, we were very willing to protect it."

CUHK politics lecturer Nelson Lee said the battle of the No. 2 footbridge had left an indelible mark in the city's collective memory.

"I feel it very keenly," Lee said. "Especially these new students who started university this [academic] year, they lost out hugely at a time that should be the most important of their lives."

"They had barely started being at university when they were no longer able to enjoy that life any more," Lee said.

Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Jia Ao for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Xinjiang Authorities Jail Parents of Uyghur Man Studying Islam in Egypt

Their son says he believes they were targeted for his studies and sending him money abroad.

Xinjiang Authorities Jail Parents of Uyghur Man Studying Islam in Egypt

The parents of a young Uyghur man who left northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to study Islam in Egypt have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, according to their son, who said they were likely targeted because of his religious education and for sending money abroad.

Abduhaliq Aziz, from the XUAR’s Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) city, moved to Cairo in December 2015 to study Islam at Al-Azhar University and recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about his missing father, Aziz Nasir, and mother, Amine Abdulla.

Aziz said that his father, who worked as a driver at the People’s Park in Kashgar, disappeared in 2016, while his mother, a housewife, went missing in 2017.

“After leaving, I had normal contact with my family—I was in touch with my mom and talked with my dad twice, and then, after speaking with them for the last time in February 2016, [my dad] disappeared,” he said.

“My dad was a driver for the People’s Park, which belongs to the government, you know, so he was a civil servant.”

Aziz said that when he would communicate with his mother afterwards, she would tell him that his father had “gone out” of the house and wasn’t available.

“But I was a little bit suspicious, and I wondered whether she was hiding something from me,” he said, because she didn’t want him to worry.

According to Aziz, his calls with his mother became less and less frequent, going from once a week to once a month, until “my mom disappeared at one point around October 2016.”

“We didn’t talk at all, but then she added me back to [messaging app] WeChat and we talked once in January 2017 [before she went silent again],” he said.

“Later, in April of 2017, my mom added me to WeChat again. She added me and said, ‘[The authorities] are getting ready to take me away to ‘study.’ I don’t know when I’ll get out, so please delete me from your WeChat. I’m going to delete you from mine.’ She told me not to add her again, and I said okay. I haven’t had any sort of contact with my mother since then.”

Being sent for “study” is a euphemism used by authorities in the XUAR to indicate detention at one of the region’s vast network of internment camps, where up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” are believed to have been held since April 2017.

Detained over study abroad

Aziz said that since his mother was detained, he also hasn’t had any contact with his immediate or extended family, including his siblings back home.

“In February 2020, I received news from someone that my mom had received a six-year sentence, but they didn’t know whether she was dead or alive,” he said.

“They also said that our family members and neighbors know that my father disappeared, but they don’t know anything about him—where he was taken, whether he’s alive, nothing.”

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, but who claims to have knowledge of the situation, told Aziz that his parents had been detained for having sent him abroad to study Islam.

“I think the reason for my parents’ detention is that they sent me to Egypt to get a religious education,” he said.

“The fact that they sent me money [while I was abroad] is also a possible reason.”

Egypt is among several countries blacklisted by authorities for travel by Uyghurs because of a perceived threat of religious extremism, and RFA has documented several instances where people have been detained for overseas visits or maintaining ties abroad.

In one such recent report, a Uyghur named Enver Tursun, who owns the Taksim Shopping Center in Ghulja (Yining) city, was put on trial for charges of “discriminating against national education” after having sent his son to study in Turkey, although it was not immediately clear whether he had been sentenced.

Sentence confirmed

RFA recently spoke with a Han Chinese employee from the office of People’s Park in Kashgar to ask about Nasir’s detention, but she said that the park had no driver by that name.

“We do have one Uyghur person [who was detained], but that’s not his name,” she said, without providing further details.

The employee then handed the phone to a Uyghur coworker who told RFA he had only been working there for five months and “I don’t know anything about that,” before hanging up.

RFA also spoke with an employee from the Kashgar Prefecture [Communist] Party Organization Office, who said he did not know of Nasir’s detention, but referred further questions to the legal office of Doletbagh township, which administers his No. 10 village.

A Uyghur cadre from the township legal office, who also declined to be named, confirmed that Aziz Nasir was among area residents who had been imprisoned.

“[He was handed] eight years in Maralbeshi (Bachu) [county],” the cadre said, when asked how long Nasir had been sentenced for.

“He drove a car [for a living] … He was locked up two years ago … He was in an internment camp for a month or two, maybe three months, and then he was sentenced [to prison].”

The cadre said he had also heard that Nasir’s wife, Abdulla, had been “sentenced to five years.”

“I heard that she’s in Atush, but I don’t know [exactly] where,” they said.

Students targeted

Beginning in early July 2017, more than 200 Uyghurs, many of them religious students at Al-Azhar, were detained in Egypt after being rounded up in restaurants or at their homes, with others seized at airports as they tried to flee to safer countries, sources said in earlier reports.

Dozens were then deported back to Xinjiang, where rights groups said they faced a serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture, while many who had earlier gone home on their own in response to a Chinese government order to return for “registration” were also taken into custody.

Mass incarcerations in the XUAR, as well as other policies seen to violate the rights of Uyghurs and other Muslims, have led to increasing calls by the international community to hold Beijing accountable for its actions in the region, which also include the use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress its citizens.

While Beijing initially denied the existence of internment camps in the XUAR, China last year changed tack and began describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.

But reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often-overcrowded facilities.

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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