Australia urges restraint from Hong Kong police

Australia urges restraint from Hong Kong police

Anti-government demonstration in the Central district of Hong Kong
Riot police officers detain a protester during an anti-government demonstration in the Central district of Hong Kong, China, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday (Nov 14) made an unusually blunt call for Hong Kong police to respond "proportionately" to escalating protests, and urged the city's authorities to consider an independent investigation into police conduct.

READ: China says ‘firmly supports’ Hong Kong police after US criticises shooting of protester

Urging "restraint" from both protesters and police after violence that has crippled the international financial hub, foreign minister Marise Payne echoed calls from the European Union and the United States for "genuine steps to de-escalate tensions".

"It is essential that the police respond proportionately to protests," Payne said, urging authorities to heed calls for an investigation into the police response to the protests.

READ: Hong Kong protesters fire arrows at police as city-wide demonstrations continue

As protesters have stepped up a campaign of roadblocks and vandalism across Hong Kong, police have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and, on occasion, live ammunition.

But viral videos have also shown one police officer deliberately riding his motorcycle into crowds, the indiscriminate firing of teargas - sometimes at journalists - and multiple instances of officers lashing out.

READ: Police suspect Chinese University of Hong Kong used as 'weapons factory' during protests

Amid allegations of brutality, an international expert panel advising Hong Kong's police watchdog has recommended an independent investigation into police conduct.

"Australia encourages the Hong Kong authorities to address the panel's recommendations," the minister said.

Payne also tacitly rejected China's repeated assertion that events in Hong Kong are purely "domestic affairs".

"Australia has a substantial stake in Hong Kong's success. The city is home to one of our biggest expatriate communities globally and our largest commercial presence in Asia."

Source: AFP/aa