A defense lawyer representing three women between the ages of 18 and 27 appeared before the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday and alleged his clients were required to cooperate with a number of unnecessary strip searches following their arrest on August 11.
The three women, along with 13 men, were arrested outside the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station and charged with illegal assembly, according to the Asia Times, which cited the Sing Tao Daily. One woman received an additional charge of rioting.
The women’s defense lawyer asserted on October 23 that despite all 16 arrestees receiving similar charges, only the women were unnecessarily strip-searched by a female officer in courthouse holding cells, and one woman, surnamed Leung, was even subjected to two other nude inspections. The 13 men were not required to strip down.
In addition to having her bare body inspected by the courthouse officer, Leung had clothed body searches conducted upon her August 11 entry to the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station and after she arrived at the San Uk Ling Holding Center.
Citing the Ming Pao Daily, the Asia Times reported that while the defense lawyer requested footage from the relevant police departments and the court, the latter informed the attorney that they do not own the surveillance footage. However, the police, which are represented by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice, responded by requesting the defendants not pursue an application to have the matter tried in the High Court. It’s unclear what steps the Justice Department and police force will take next concerning the footage.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai Hung noted to the Asia Times that while clothed body searches are permitted in the courthouse holding rooms, strip searches are usually reserved for those who have been accused of trafficking or possessing drugs.
Reports of Hong Kong authorities’ alleged abuses power have been prevalent since the beginning of demonstrations some months ago, and the demonstrators’ grievances have been amplified by organizations such as Amnesty International, as well as a number of foreign leaders who support the anti-government protests. At the same time, arrests have surged in the past several weeks as illegal assemblies continue and mainland China-affiliated businesses have been subjected to arson, vandalism and shoplifting.
According to the South China Morning Post, nearly 2,400 people had been arrested as of October 10, and approximately 60 protesters were arrested for the second time recently.