• To accuse Hong Kong officers of such heinous acts when facing protesters is shameful and belittles the profound suffering of real victims
Riot police at the Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday, August 13. Photo: Felix Wong

Hong Kong police have been heavily criticised for their recent anti-riot operations. But "crimes against humanity"? I hate to point out the obvious: not a single person has been killed so far.

I first heard of this ridiculous claim from influential online pundit Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen. But then, a group of anonymous civil servants have repeated the same charge. So it's not a quirk, but a position shared by many in certain circles.

In an anonymous petition, more than 350 civil servants wrote they were "absolutely disgusted" by the force police used against protesters. "We have lost count of the number of 'crimes against humanity' Hong Kong police committed and we feel ashamed to call them colleagues," they wrote.

First of all, such crimes are among the most heinous that a people, a group or a government can commit. Under international law, offenders can be tried at the International Criminal Court. If there had been such incidents, it's imperative our fearless, if faceless, civil servants document them.

Why Hong Kong protesters view police as the enemy

Losing count? That's not an excuse, unless, of course, there is nothing to count. Their petition cited criticisms from United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet. But what the UN body said was that police were not following "international norms and standards in their use of weapons" and therefore creating "a considerable risk of death or serious injury". There was no mention of "crimes against humanity".

Since they were quoting the UN, they should look up the website of the world body's Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. There, they will find very detailed materials providing historical background to "crimes against humanity", their definitions and applications under international law.

Such cases must involve: murder, extermination, enslavement, torture; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against any identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds; enforced disappearance of persons; the crime of apartheid.

They don't sound like anything that's happening in Hong Kong. What this whole farce signifies is the deep narcissism and ignorance of some Hong Kong people. Their claim of "crimes against humanity" against the police is shameful, because it belittles the profound suffering of real victims of that most serious of crimes.

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