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‘Unheard of in civilised countries’: Top medical journal blasts Hong Kong police for treatment of medics at Polytechnic University

A Hong Kong-based surgeon on Friday condemned the police for arresting a group of medics outside the besieged Polytechnic University (PolyU), saying that the move violated international humanitarian standards.

In an article published by the leading medical journal Lancet, Darren Mann said that the Hong Kong police had fallen “far below accepted international norms for the handling of volunteer emergency medical providers.”

“The arrest of these personnel is almost unheard of in civilised countries and is incompatible with the compact of humanitarianism,” Mann said.

“Furthermore, the chilling effect can only serve to deter would-be volunteers from offering their services in the much-needed medical care of injured people in this ongoing uncivil war.”

On Monday, police arrested 51 people who “claimed to be medics or journalists” outside the PolyU campus in Hung Hom, adding that 12 of purported medics had no first aid qualifications.

The university has been occupied by masked protesters since last week with intense clashes breaking out as police began to close in.

A widely circulated photo on Sunday night appeared to show more than 10 people – all of whom wore reflective vests identifying them as medical staff – sitting on the ground with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

Mann said that he was part of a medical team that left PolyU on Sunday night, and witnessed a group behind him being arrested at the police cordon line.

Police delayed Red Cross

In the article, Mann also rejected a police claim saying that the Red Cross team had entered the university at the behest of law enforcement. Instead, the medics “self-initiated” the intervention because they believed the situation had amounted to a “humanitarian crisis,” he added.

“The team arrived at the cordon of protest zone but did not receive police approval to enter until more than two hours later; furthermore, the police had set a time limit of three hours for their mission, which was subsequently extended by Red Cross demand due to the number of people requiring treatment,” he said.

Arisina Ma, chairperson of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, told reporters that some medics leaving PolyU on Monday were held for 24 hours after their arrest.

At least six of the arrestees were doctors at public hospitals, while others were nurses. The medics told Ma that at around 8pm on Monday police had surrounded the campus, blocking all exits.

Medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan also said that the police have not given sufficient justification for denying entry to medical personnel.

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