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600 Korean WTO Protesters Arrested

Posted December. 19, 2005 03:04,   


The Hong Kong police arrested about 600 Koreans who waged “expeditionary demonstrations” against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Hong Kong, the venue for the sixth WTO ministerial meeting.

For the first time, Koreans were arrested en masse while waging demonstrations overseas. It was also the first time hundreds of foreigners were taken to police stations by force in Hong Kong.

On December 18, the last day of the WTO meeting, the local police took about 900 people into custody by force, including Korean demonstrators who had clashed with police starting the night before around the Hong Kong Convention Center.

Hong Kong authorities released journalists and Hong Kong residents among the 900, detained about 700 (including about 600 Koreans) in police stations, and began investigations for trials.

During the demonstration, 84 people, including 17 police officers and 67 demonstrators, were injured, but none of the injuries were serious, according to reports.

Earlier, on the afternoon of December 17, 1,500 Korean demonstrators from the Korea Peasants League, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, and the Korean Federation of University Student Councils marched with 200 foreign demonstrators from the Victoria Park toward the Hong Kong Convention Center where the ministerial meeting was being held, and held an “anti-WTO” demonstration.

After arriving at the front of the Convention Center, the demonstrators turned violent, swinging iron pipes and flag poles as the police tried to quell them with clubs and tear gas. For the first time since Hong Kong’s 1967 riots against British colonial rule, tear gas was used Hong Kong.

Ambrose Lee, the Hong Kong Secretary for Security, held an emergency press conference on December 17 and made it clear that the Hong Kong authorities will deal with those demonstrators strictly, saying, “The demonstrators have undermined the security and order of Hong Kong.”

After basic investigations, the arrested demonstrators will be put on trial within two days. Though most of them are likely to be deported from Hong Kong, the possibility of some of them being detained in custody cannot be ruled out.

Those related to the Korean demonstrators claim that “the Hong Kong police violated human rights by beating demonstrators when they were hauled to police stations.”

On December 19, the Korean government will send Lee Kyu-hyung, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to Hong Kong, to consult on how to deal with those arrested.

At the WTO ministerial meeting, ministers succeeded in reaching an agreement on the abolition of export subsidies. However, other than that, they failed to produce tangible results. They only reconfirmed the principle of the open market.

Eun-Woo Lee libra@donga.com