Hong Kong unrest: legal row after police take away protester from British consulate

Kanis Leung

A row erupted in Hong Kong after police led a girl away from a protest at the British consulate on Saturday, in an area critics argued officers could not legally enter.

The 15-year-old was subsequently arrested, a police source said.

A witness said riot officers took the girl, dressed in dark clothes, to their vehicle after she was found to be carrying a spray adhesive, which protesters have often used to affix posters and signs supporting the months-long civil unrest.

Luke de Pulford, who sits on the British Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, said police should be summoned to explain themselves.

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“The police should not have entered consular property without the express invitation of the consul general. By diplomatic convention, this territory is inviolable and under the UK’s authority,” he said.

He said it did not look like the consulate had invited the force to break up the “peaceful demonstrations”.

But a senior police officer told the Post that the diplomatic office had called in the force to handle a criminal case. The girl was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, the officer said.

Protesters had initially planned to head to government headquarters in Admiralty at 2pm, to post promotional materials and sticky notes to make a “Lennon Wall”, a mural of messages and artwork the like of which has sprung up across the city in support of the anti-government movement.

But with a strong presence of riot police in the area, some went to the nearby consulate building, placing Post-it messages on boards outside.

The witness, surnamed Wong, also 15, said riot police took the girl away after they found the spray adhesive inside her bag.

Wong was among about 10 protesters who joined the calls to erect the Lennon Wall, and said the scene was “very peaceful initially”. She was released with others after police checked her ID card, bag and body.

According to documents from the Land Registry, the outdoor area where the incident happened is part of a 6,500 square metre plot which the government granted to the British diplomatic body in 1994, as a non-exclusive right of way.

“The lease specified that the British consulate is the owner of the area, but it has authorised the public to use it. It’s an open space, so it was reasonable for the police to enforce the law

Eunice Yung, barrister and legislator

The Consular Relations Ordinance states that Hong Kong authorities “shall not enter part of the consular premises” used exclusively for the purpose of the work of the consular post, “except with the consent of the head of the consular post or of his designee or of the head of the diplomatic mission”.

“The consent of the head of the consular post may, however, be assumed in case of fire or other disaster requiring prompt protective action,” it adds.

Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun, also a lawyer, said officers could not in principle enforce the law at the site without the consulate’s consent.

“Mainly it’s about the lease. If it admitted that the area was part of the British consulate, then it was not allowed,” he said.

But Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a barrister and deputy chairwoman of the Legislative Council’s security panel, argued it was legitimate for police to take action.

There was a large police presence at government headquarters on Saturday. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

“I’m not sure whether the woman has committed other offences, such as loitering or causing disorder in public places. But the area is not enclosed,” said Yung, of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party.

“The lease specified that the British consulate is the owner of the area, but it has authorised the public to use it. It’s an open space, so it was reasonable for the police to enforce the law.”

A spokeswoman for the British foreign office noted simply that it was aware of police attending a long-running protest outside its consulate in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Additional reporting by Lilian Cheng

This article Hong Kong unrest: legal row after police take away protester from British consulate first appeared on South China Morning Post

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