A protester who was arrested during an anti-government demonstration last year has come out to say that she attempted suicide after sexual assault at the hands police officer left her traumatized.
The protester, who went by K., told reporters on Monday that a female police officer grabbed her breasts while bringing her to a police van outside Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza, where protesters were facing off with police, during a protest last September. At the police station, a police office touched her inappropriately during a strip search, she said.
Speaking at a press conference held by the Social Workers’ General Union, K recalled: “At first, when I left the police station I was fine, it was like I had been removed from reality… after some time, I started to get startled by sounds and touches. During the most serious moments, I would get anxiety attacks and cry.”
K., who is 17, said she attempted suicide three times and was admitted to a psychiatry ward, where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
She faces one count of assaulting a police officer and is due for a court hearing next month.
At the police station, K. asked several times to speak with her parents and a lawyer, but was told repeatedly denied.
When she asked to go the toilet, a female police officer accompanied her and did not give her privacy. “When I asked her, ‘Can you not stare at me when I use the toilet,’ she answered, ‘That’s the rules,'” K. said.
While there have been rumors that protesters who were arrested during last year’s demonstrations have been sexually assaulted by police officers, few have opened up about their experiences.
Amnesty International has called attention to the matter.
“Allegations of the sexual harassment and assault of protesters have been circulating since Hong Kong’s current protest movement began. There have been reports of assault in police stations, footage of police exposing women’s underwear during arrest and allegations of humiliating and unnecessary strip searches,” a report published by the group in January says.
The group adds that social stigma, combined with victims not wanting their families or employers to know they are involved in protests, make it difficult for many to speak up.
Last year, a female protester who went by the name Ms. X filed a complaint that she had been raped by several officers in the Tsuen Wan police station.
Sonia Ng, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, accused police officers of hitting her breasts while she was detained. In response to her tearful testimony at her university’s open forum with school authorities, police said they would launch a “fact-finding investigation.”
During the press conference, the social workers’ union appealed for anybody with pictures or footage of K’s arrest to share them ahead of her court date.
“We hope to rouse people who have suffered unnecessary treatment and sexual assault in the past year, to bravely stand out and speak up,” said Cheung Chi-wai, vice president of the Social Workers’ General Union.
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