Dozens arrested in Hong Kong as protesters chase police
Officer fires warning shot after being surrounded by demonstrators who took over main street
Hong Kong police arrested dozens of demonstrators in a further escalation of the street protests that have shaken the city’s government and residents.
Police brought out water cannon for the first time when hardline protesters took over the main street in the Tsuen Wan district on Sunday. Officers then pulled their guns after a group chased them with sticks and rods, calling them “gangsters”.
The authorities said that one officer fell to the ground and six others drew their pistols after they were surrounded, with one firing a warning shot.
The firing of a live round provoked an angry response from social media users, who mocked a Hong Kong police spokesman who had praised the officers’ “valiant and restrained” actions.
Police defended the warning shot, with Assistant Police Commissioner Mak Chin-ho saying that the officers’ use of force “was indeed necessary and reasonable”.
Mr Mak called the actions of the hardline protesters reckless and a grave threat to public safety. He said 21 officers were injured on Sunday.
“The police have zero tolerance for violent acts,” Mr Mak said. He asked citizens to ask themselves: “Is this the Hong Kong you would like to see?”
Sunday’s procession was made up of mostly black-clad protesters carrying colourful umbrellas who shouted slogans as they moved swiftly towards Tsuen Wan district.
They chanted: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
Police said they arrested 36 people, including a minor aged 12, for offences such as unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon and assaulting police officers.
Some protesters said they were resorting to violence because the government had not responded to their peaceful demonstrations.
Pro-government MPs condemned the protesters, but pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council said that the authorities and the police needed to take responsibility.
Demonstrators said they remained as determined as ever in their fight for political rights.
The Hong Kong protest movement is demanding that the city’s leader, Carrie Lam – chosen by a pro-Beijing committee – step down, although that demand has since evolved into a broader call for fully democratic elections.
Demonstrators have also asked for the complete withdrawal of the now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to China, an independent body to investigate police violence and political reform that would allow for the free election of Hong Kong’s leader and legislature.
A large group of protesters also clashed with police on Saturday after a march in the Kowloon Bay neighbourhood, building barricades and setting fires in the streets.
Police said they arrested 29 people, ranging in age from 17 to 52, for various offences, including unlawful assembly.
With almost-daily protests planned throughout the week and another major rally expected on Saturday, the turmoil shows no sign of abating.
Before Hong Kong became a Chinese territory, it was under British rule for 150 years. When Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, Beijing promised that the territory could retain its own laws for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” framework.
Activists are planning a citywide strike and boycotts of classes at universities and schools in the coming weeks.
Updated: August 27, 2019 03:58 AM