British officers in Hong Kong police could face torture charges in UK
Senior British officers in Hong Kong police force could face torture charges in UK court after activists raise £200,000 to bring private prosecution
- Officers have been accused of engaging in torture of pro-democracy activists
- The torture has allegedly been carried out in police stations and on the streets
- It is claimed three of six Hong Kong regional commander posts filled by Britons
Senior British officers in the Hong Kong police force could face legal action in the UK on torture charges after activists said on Monday that they plan to proceed with a private prosecution.
The officers are accused of directly engaging in torture against pro-democracy demonstrators, or directing others within the force to carry out the crimes.
Torture has allegedly been carried out in police stations and on the streets, with a specific incident cited at Hong Kong’s Citic Tower during protests in June 2019.
The prosecution is being brought by a team of prominent activists and lawyers, who are using a JustGiving page to try and raise £200,000 to employ a full-time legal team.
They claim three of the six Hong Kong regional commander police posts are filled by British nationals, who were installed just before former the colonial power handed the territory over to the Chinese.
They says the prosecution can be carried out in London as torture is an offence which has universal jurisdiction under British law.
A team of prominent activists and lawyers are using a JustGiving page to try and raise £200,000 to employ a full-time legal team
They claim that torture has allegedly been carried out in police stations and on the streets, with a specific incident cited at Hong Kong’s Citic Tower during protests in June 2019
‘The people of Hong Kong have suffered sustained brutality at the hands of the Hong Kong Police Force,’ said Luke de Pulford, a member of the human rights group, Hong Kong Watch.
‘Despite clear evidence of excessive force, no officer has been disciplined. Many of those officers are British, and as such, they are subject to British law.’
None of the officers who could face prosecution have been named.
Another of those trying to bring about the prosecution is Nathan Law, a young democracy activist who recently fled to London from Hong Kong after China imposed a controversial security law on the territory in June.
The law was introduced to quell widespread and often violent pro-democracy protests, sparking criticism from Western nations and sanctions from the United States.
The legal action, if it goes ahead, will be led by London-based lawyers Edmunds Marshall McMahon, which describes itself as the ‘only specialist private prosecution law firm’ in the country.
It comes as Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was arrested in a raid on his newspaper office today under the city’s draconian new security law.
Lai, 71, was led away in handcuffs and arrested along with six others on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces – one of the new offences under the law – and fraud.
Protesters gather inside the Citic Tower during a protest in Hong Kong in June 2019
The editor of Lai’s Apple Daily paper said its journalists would not be intimidated by the raid after staff posted a live-stream of dozens of police on their premises.
However, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the raid ‘bears out the worst fears that the law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom’.
China insists the law is necessary to restore order after last year’s mass protests, but critics say it tramples on the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong after its handover from Britain in 1997.
Beijing’s new law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, leading to fears it would be used to silence criticism.
Under arrest: Jimmy Lai (centre), the media tycoon behind pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested by police in Hong Kong today
Raid: A fleet of police officers wearing masks conduct a raid inside Apple Daily headquarters on Monday in one of the most high-profile operations under the new security law
It also toppled the firewall between the mainland’s Communist Party-controlled courts and Hong Kong’s vaunted independent judiciary.
The law’s introduction has coincided with ramped up police action against democracy supporters.
Bejing also responded with criticism after Britain announced plans to open up a path to citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kongers.
In response to the introduction of the controversial national security law in Hong Kong, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab last month announced that residents would be offered a ‘route to citizenship’, an extension of the six-month allowance to five years.
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