APPG inquiry report reveals Hong Kong oversaw the abuse of humanitarian and medical workers

APPG inquiry report reveals Hong Kong oversaw the abuse of humanitarian and medical workers

In March 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong launched an inquiry into possible human rights abuses against humanitarian aid workers in Hong Kong during the 2019 protests. Since then, the APPG has read through 1,000 submissions of evidence and interviewed several key witnesses of human rights abuses, including medical professionals, a journalist, humanitarian workers, academics and a former Hong Kong police officer. The inquiry (full text can be found here) concluded that Hong Kong has failed to meet the required standard of protection for humanitarian and medical workers, as guaranteed by international law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration thereby tolerating their abuse.

The central focus of the inquiry was to determine whether the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), in their treatment of humanitarian aid workers, violated international human rights law and the spirit of humanitarian law. In scrutinising this question, members of the inquiry paid particular regard to the actions of the HKPF in relation to 1) international humanitarian law and principles, 2) international human rights law, and 3) the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It found that the Hong Kong Police Force has failed to meet the standard required by all three of the above.

The inquiry recommends that:

  1. The UK to lead the efforts to establish an independent mechanism to investigate the situation in Hong Kong, for example:
    – At the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (or the UN General Assembly) to establish an investigative mechanism to consider the situation.
    – Work with the International Bar Association to establish a comprehensive and independent inquiry
  2. The UK to engage in a dialogue with the city’s authorities to assist the UN inquiries on the issue.
  3. The UK should urgently impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on those responsible for permitting the excessive police violence at high level in the administration, including but not limited to Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the Commissioner of Police.
  4. The UK should ensure that its bold and encouraging British National (Overseas) citizenship immigration policies, designed to protect Hongkongers and adhere to the UK’s responsibilities under the Joint Declaration, are not applicable to those who have encouraged/endorsed the National Security Law, or who have encouraged, supported or condoned police violence.
  5. The UK to provide capacity-building assistance to the Hong Kong authorities to:
    – Ensure that the independent mechanism for lodging complaints is comprehensive and able to conduct its work independently and effectively
    – Strengthen the human rights training to all police officers responding to protests.
  6. The UK to work with Hong Kong authorities to strengthen the human rights protections in the city, as stipulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  7. The UK to explore whether the targeted humanitarian aid workers fall within the purview of the Refugee Convention and consider how they could be best assisted.

Baroness Bennett remarks:

“The United Kingdom has a unique legal, moral and historical duty towards the people of Hong Kong. When the UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, we also handed over the people of Hong Kong. We expected China to honour its word and legal duty to ensure those people were able to develop democratic structures and systems. We also expected that Hongkongers would be protected by the international principles of respect for human rights, and that Hongkongers would be both free and free from harm. We were struck by the words of a courageous young doctor who told us that ‘in the future they will come crashing through my door, arrest me and I will just disappear.’ The evidence outlined in this report shows that the Hong Kong administration, under the direction of Beijing, has failed to meet the required standard for the protection of these vital workers.”

The Whitehouse team are experts in providing public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union and beyond. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at