Amnesty International has called upon the Hong Kong government to drop prosecutions of peaceful protesters, in light of them having “a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the city.”
The statement from the rights NGO came ahead of the third anniversary of the start of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests on Thursday.
According to the Secretary for Security, 955 people were arrested during the protests, and 48 more arrests were made afterwards. They were initially released, but police moved to crack down on the leaders of the protests a day after the chief executive election in March of this year.
The Department told Amnesty that, as of the end of August, 225 of those who were arrested have or are undergoing judicial proceedings.
The 48 arrested after the movement include nine of the movement’s leaders. They face public nuisance charges, with all but one facing multiple charges. Each of the charges carries a maximum penalty of seven years behind bars.
Student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were also jailed last month following a successful appeal of their non-custodial sentences by the Department of Justice.
“Three years since the Umbrella Movement protests, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over Hong Kong. The government’s stance is having a chilling effect on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“The government must drop prosecutions which have the effect of deterring people from participating in peaceful protests, particularly on sensitive issues such as Hong Kong’s autonomy and democracy. The authorities’ continued obfuscation has left protesters in legal limbo and is detrimental to human rights in Hong Kong.”
Amnesty’s statement also criticised the charge of unlawful assembly and others in the Public Ordinance for failing to fully meet international standards.
“The arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of Umbrella Movement participants using vague and broad charges reeks of political motivation, aimed at silencing those promoting democracy in Hong Kong,” Au said.