This is an appeal published by the Hong Kong Reclaiming Social Work Movement
A registered social worker from Hong Kong, Mr. LAU Ka-tung, has been convicted and sentenced to one-year imprisonment for committing an offence in the Anti-extradition Bill Movement on 17 June, 2020.
The Magistrate agreed that Mr LAU had impeded police’s action of arresting protesters on 27 July, 2019 in Yuen Long. He also rejected Mr LAU’s application for temporary release, pending on his appeal against the sentence to the High Court.
But as the defence lawyer asserted, Mr LAU has shown his social worker registration card and held up his hands without any physical resistance. He just functioned as a mediator to verbally remind the police the possible casualties that might result from a stampede of the retreating protesters. However, he was injured and arrested.
The conviction is a disastrous precedent for upcoming trials of other social workers who are arrested at similar scenarios. According to the global definition and ethical principles of social work, one of the main duties of the profession is to stand for the rights, safety and interests of the clients while upholding human rights and social justice.
The presence of social workers in the protest scenes and the related mediating and rescue work is not only legitimate, but also essential when the Anti-extradition Bill Movement in 2019 in Hong Kong became a fight for human rights, democracy and freedom.
Unfortunately, more than 50 social workers were arrested for upholding human rights and safeguarding social justice, and some were charged for rioting. Mr LAU was the first, but will not be the last, social worker being criminalized while carrying out professional duties.
We call for social workers and social work organizations in the international community to show their support and solidarity to Mr. LAU and to protect the basic values of the social work profession in one or all of the following ways:
- Stage an open support for social workers’ presence in the frontline at the protest scenes to perform as mediators;
- Declare a global solidarity against the arrest, ill treatment and criminal conviction of social workers when they implement their roles and duties in social movement to uphold human rights and safeguard social justice;
- Call for the High Court appeal for the convicted case against any possible political prosecution of social workers.
Reclaiming Social Work Movement
18 June, 2020
Contact Person: Dr. Leung Chi Yuen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Image of social worker Lau Ka-tung: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.