Britain has given training and “support” to the police in Hong Kong widely condemned for shooting, beating and teargassing protesters, the Independent daily reported in an exclusive find.
The revelation is of particular embarrassment for the government as U.K. ministers were among those calling for moderation last year during protests in the city, in which police were accused of torturing demonstrators and making arbitrary arrests.
Similarly, the U.K. this week received a warning from China that it would issue "countermeasures" against what Beijing considers interference in its internal affairs.
The caution came in response to an announcement by Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declaring that 300,000 British national overseas passport holders in Hong Kong would be granted citizenship if China persisted with its controversial new anti-sedition legislation.
Yet a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed that the College of Policing – the professional body for police in England and Wales – has been working with the Hong Kong authorities to train its officers amid the protests. It refused to give any further detail on the support that was offered last year, citing an exemption over “international relations.”
The College of Policing has also given training to American forces in the past, listing the U.S. as a recipient of “international policing assistance” on its website, prompting human rights campaigners and opposition members of Parliament to call for the suspension of sales, rubber bullets and riot shields amid concerns over U.S. police brutality in the ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade, which submitted the Freedom of Information request that brought the revelation to light, said the College of Policing had been working with “incredibly abusive police forces around the world.”
Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, told the Independent: “The Hong Kong authorities have acted appallingly over recent weeks and during the wider crackdown. The widespread violence and the use of tear gas and other weapons against protesters must be condemned in the strongest terms."
During violent demonstrations in June last year, the government paused export licenses on crowd-control equipment for Hong Kong police after it emerged that British-made CS grenades, crowd-control ammunition and riot shields were being used.
Last month, Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) released a report on the response to the protests that was condemned a whitewash.
The report, which cited the College of Policing guidance numerous times, admitted that police had used live ammunition on at least 12 occasions and had shot several protesters, yet defended the actions as having been provoked by protesters.
Addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday, Dominic Raab said the British government had “called for a fully independent investigation in relation to police treatment of the protesters.”
Hong Kong’s police force was listed among those in 19 foreign countries that were given training and support by the College of Policing in 2019.