Police accused of forceful action

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2011, 12:00am

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Protesters arrested after the annual July 1 march accused the police yesterday of using excessive force to break up demonstrations that disrupted traffic in Central after the main rally.

The clashes took place outside the Bank of China Tower, where more than 1,000 protesters were gathered, and outside the Cheung Kong Center, where another 200 were assembled, late on Friday night to demand the withdrawal of the government's attempt to scrap by-elections. Police arrested 231 demonstrators after using pepper spray on some of them.

Lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, of People Power, said a police officer threw a punch at him during the scuffles, while fellow party member Ray Chan Chi-chuen demanded the force explain why it used handcuffs on some protesters and adjustable plastic bands on others.

Albert Chan, who led the crowd of more than 1,000 on the march from Wan Chai to Central, also said a police officer grabbed his neck during a confrontation, while pepper spray was used just two inches from his eyes. He later felt a punch on his chest and was stepped on when he fell to the ground.

'If the government uses police power to settle political problems, it will only elevate the level of social conflict and the conflict between police and residents,' he said.

League of Social Democrats lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who demonstrated outside the Cheung Kong Center and was later arrested in Connaught Road Central, said 11 league members were arrested for 'obstruction'. He said police would normally issue only a summons for the offence.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the International Federation of Journalists demanded the police explain why an intern reporter from a New York-based TV station was arrested after failing to show her press card.

A police spokesman said officers used pepper spray after issuing a warning when protesters threw some objects and charged the officers. He said the police had acted in a restrained manner and used minimal and necessary force.

He said some protesters had dashed onto the roads during the arrest operation. He said all those arrested had been causing an obstruction.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen condemned the demonstrators for disrupting public order and said that the police had 'exercised a high level of restraint' and professionalism.