A concern group defending children’s rights condemned the police for depriving minors of basic human rights during the recent months of anti-government protests.
The group, made up of concerned citizens, and including social workers and legislators, held a press conference on Thursday, five days after they created an online petition calling on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to look into the Hong Kong police’s alleged abuse of power.
They also alleged that the force had violated multiple articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been in effect in Hong Kong since 1994.
“Starting from June onwards, Hong Kong children - which means people under 18 according to the United Nations - have had their rights deprived or infringed upon in various forms when they were being arrested, detained, or even while in school,” said Chong Chan-yau, who initiated the online petition. Chong is also the president of the Hong Kong Blind Union and Director of EL Education, an English Language learning service provider.
The group, which includes lawmakers Fernando Cheung and Ip Kin-yuen, added that the police’s abuse of power and deployment of excessive force against young protesters had violated the Convention’s Article 37, which states that “Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance”, and that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Others laws that were mentioned include Articles 3, 9, 13, 15 and 40, with the first stating that “the best interest of the child should be a primary consideration in matters relating to children,” and others declaring children had the right to freedom of expression and to gather peacefully.
Referring to some cases of arrested young protesters who have been remanded in custody before they were charged, the group also condemned the police for applying for protection orders to detain them, without taking into account their’ parents’ ability and willingness to care for them.
“The protection order was supposed to be used to protect children from harm, but the Hong Kong police are now abusing it to harm them,” said Lau Ka-tung, a social worker and member of pan-democractic political group Reclaiming Social Work Movement. “They’re using the protection order as a detention order. This is totally unacceptable.”
In the eyes of a social worker, applying for a protection order is the last resort to protect a child, he added. “There are family and teens service centres, as well as children’s homes available [for the arrested teenagers]. There’s absolutely no need to detain them.”
He also cited a case where the police justified their application of the order by their failure to reach the parents. However the parents involved claimed they did not hear from the police.
The group also criticised the police for multiple instances of not allowing young arrested protesters to be sent to police stations in the company and with the assistance of social workers.
In addition to sending their open letter to Lam, they are also collecting first-hand accounts of cases that allege the force’s violation of human rights. They plan to file them in a report to be sent to relevant departments of the United Nations.