Riot police fire tear gas during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Aug. 11, 2019.
Riot police fire tear gas during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Aug. 11, 2019.

GENEVA - The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michele Bachelet, has called for an investigation into what she said is the use of banned tactics by Hong Kong police to quell anti-government demonstrations. 

Bachelet is voicing concern about the escalating violence in Hong Kong and worries about it spiraling out of control. She is urging protesters to express their grievances peacefully and not to resort to violence or the destruction of property.

Bachelet, however, is urging Hong Kong authorities to refrain from hard-nosed tactics that violate peoples' rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and which are likely to cause civilian casualties.

An anti-extradition bill protester throws a tear gas cartridge back at police during clashes in Wan Chai in Hong Kong, Aug. 11, 2019.

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the high commissioner is alarmed by the methods used by the security forces that are both dangerous and forbidden.

"OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) has reviewed credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards,” Colville said. “For example, 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."  

Colville said there are clear guidelines on how supposed non-lethal weapons, such as tear gas, batons and rubber bullets should be used."Law enforcement officials should only employ tear gas to disperse crowds as a last resort when widespread violence creates an imminent threat of serious injury or damage to property. And, in this situation, the canisters must be fired at a high angle to create indirect fire."  

The U.N. human rights office is calling on Hong Kong authorities to investigate these incidents immediately and ensure security personnel comply with the rules of engagement.  It warns excessive use of force will only inflame tensions and worsen the situation.

Rights chief Bachelet is also urging all sides to resolve the situation through calm, meaningful dialogue.