United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned by international law.
“Officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury,” Bachelet said in a statement.
Her office “urges the Hong Kong authorities to act with restraint, to ensure that the rights of those who are expressing their views peacefully are respected and protected, while ensuring that the response by law enforcement officials to any violence that may take place is proportionate,” she said.
Her spokesman Rupert Colville conceded that security forces in the former British colony were sometimes in a difficult situation. “We are not saying it is easy, but nevertheless they have to avoid excesses, otherwise they can just make the situation worse … You risk really a vicious circle of rising violence and tension.”
A state of “panic and chaos” exists in Hong Kong, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday, defying calls to quit as the stock market tumbled, airlines flagged further flight disruptions and anti-government protesters filled the airport.
China’s comments about “sprouts of terrorism” emerging in Hong Kong were not helpful and risked inflaming the situation, Colville said.