- REUTERS/Thomas Peter
- A New York Times review of hundreds of photos and videos from the recent Hong Kong protests suggests that police responded to protesters with excessive force.
- Some protesters weathered bruised ribs, broken fingers, beatings by batons, and tear gas from the police. One bartender told The New York Times she thought the police would beat her to death.
- Human rights experts told The New York Times that the police in Hong Kong responded with outsized force, while Hong Kong officials have said police acted with restraint.
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As many as two million people protested in Hong Kong in June over an extradition bill that would have given China the right to try Hong Kongers in mainland courts. Those protests halted the bill from becoming law.
But, in the course of those protests, dozens of activists told The New York Times that they faced outsized force – bruised ribs, broken fingers, beatings by batons, and tear gas, for example. A Times review of hundreds of photos and videos from Hong Kong suggests that police responded to protesters with excessive force.
Experts at Amnesty International and other human rights organizations agreed. “This is basically an essay on how not to police a protest movement,” Dr. Rohini Haar of Physicians for Human Rights, an advocacy organization, told the Times.
Florence Chan had been singing hymns in a video published by the Times before a group of shielded police attacked her with batons. She immediately fell to the ground and begged police to stop hitting her, and later had injuries to her head, arms, and feet.
“I thought they were going to beat me to death,” Ms. Chan told The Times.
Another protester, 44-year old bartender Ivy Chan, described an instance where police confined protesters outside Citic Tower, an office building in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Police were shooting tear gas into the crowd of protesters, who then rushed into the 33-story building.
Videos show protesters trying to break down the doors of Citic Tower to let more protesters in and escape the tear gas. Eventually, some of that tear gas entered Citic Tower. Experts told The Times that this police tactic heightened the risk of causalities, stampedes, and panic.
“It was terrifying,” Chan told the Times. “We kept telling people to calm down and asking the police to exercise restraint and to not shoot any more tear gas.”
Hong Kong police did not respond to the Times’ request for a comment, but have said before that the police are well-trained and acted with restraint.