Condemning excessive use of force against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

Friday, October 3, 2014

His Excellency Luo Zhaohui, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Canada
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to Canada
515 St. Patrick Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 5H3

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE condemns recent police violence against pro-democracy “Occupy Central” protesters in Hong Kong. For nearly a week, Hong Kong has been shaken by violent confrontation between protesters and security forces; many in Hong Kong are distressed by an edict issued by the mainland Chinese government on August 31 which stipulates that nominees for chief executive must be chosen from a group of pro-Beijing candidates. As a result, student groups in Hong Kong boycotted classes for a week, starting September 22, and gathered in Civic Square in front of government headquarters. Police violently dispersed the demonstration and arrested protesters.

In response to this excessive use of force, approximately 50,000 people thronged the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend of September 27-28, leading police to beat, tear gas, pepper spray, and arrest protesters with abandon. This has prompted thousands of protesters to continue blocking the financial district and other major arteries, eliciting a similarly heavy-handed response by police. The Hong Kong Journalists Association has also reported repeated instances of disproportionate force used by police on reporters covering the demonstrations.

Meanwhile in mainland China, Occupy Central is an ongoing target of censorship. At least 20 people have been detained in several cities over the past two days for showing their support for the movement, or for planning to travel to Hong Kong to participate in protests. Further, earlier today in Hong Kong a crowd opposed to the protests converged on demonstrators and viciously attacked them, with many speculating that the mob was organized by pro-Beijing elites.

CJFE urges the government of Hong Kong to acknowledge the legitimate demands of protesters and to enter into a dialogue with them. CJFE further calls on the government to avoid using excessive force and uphold their obligations to respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Finally, we urge authorities to release all individuals detained for participating in or supporting the demonstrations, and to prosecute those involved in today’s attacks.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Ian Burchett, Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs