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20 social workers among arrested in Hong Kong violent clashes

The International Federation of Social Workers condemns brutal police crackdown

Hong Kong violence protest police social workers IFSW

Published by Professional Social Work magazine - 22 November, 2019

Hong Kong’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has been condemned by social work’s international community.

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) spoke out against the use of force amid increasingly bloody clashes between police and those calling for democratic freedoms to be safeguarded.

More than 5,000 people have been arrested since the protest began in June including 20 social workers, according to reports. More than 2,000 are believed to have been hospitalised and two people have died. Protesters are demanding an independent inquiry into the actions of the police.  

IFSW secretary-general Rory Truell said: “Social Workers worldwide are very concerned about the present situation in Hong Kong and stand in solidarity with all people that non-violently protest for democratic processes.

“We support the urgent need for establishing measures to inquire into the incidents and provide an accurate and fair account of the situation.

“It is also necessary to engage the protest representatives and the administration, not only to end the increasing violence but also with the goal of enabling dialogue and understanding that will meet the demands of the people of Hong Kong."

Truell added: “It must be recognised that social workers at the frontline are essential for such engagement and their arrests and ill-treatment must be condemned globally.”

IFSW president Silvana Martinez said the stance taken by the federation was based on principles of human rights and social justice outlined in the global definition of social work and its global ethics.

She added: “IFSW expressly rejects violence, police repression and the criminalisation of citizen protest.”

An alliance between the Hong Kong Social Workers Association, the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, the Hong Kong Social Workers General Union and the office of pro-democracy law maker Shiu Ka-chun, currently under arrest, has been formed.

It is calling for social workers to be protected from arrest when “exercising their humanitarian duty” and condemned the “excessive force” used by the police and violence “from both sides”.

The alliance also wants in independent inquiry into the unrest.

Raees Baig, assistant professor in social work at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and chair of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said: “Increasing number of social workers are being attacked and arrested.

“Some were arrested even they were performing their roles as social workers on humanitarian support and mitigating the tension between the police and the protesters. Social workers are also denied access to accompany the arrested persons to police stations which further affects the access to justice of the arrested persons especially minors.”

Professor Baig called for a democratic system that could hold the government to account and a system in which citizens had “freedom from fear”.

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.