2011 big year for protests and big year for arrests
A group of activists who helped organise some of last year's biggest civil rights protests said yesterday more than 400 protesters had been arrested in 2011, eight times the number in 2010.
In its annual report, the Civil Human Rights Front said at least 416 protesters were arrested last year, 24 of whom were charged. Four of those charged were acquitted and the remaining 20 still faced legal procedures. This compared with about 50 arrests in 2010, it said.
A police spokesman declined to comment directly on the report or the front's findings, saying only that the force respected freedom of expression and assembly, and expected protesters to observe law and order.
He said the force did not target any particular protesters or groups and would not tolerate any violent and unlawful behaviour.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, a member of the front, said the figures showed it was obvious activists had been suppressed since Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung had taken office last January.
'I am concerned that the suppression will be intensified in future and that will trigger more conflicts between the police and the protesters,' she said.
Legislator James To Kun-sun said: 'While Andy Tsang's personal style of being hawkish could be a reason [for the increase in the number of arrests], the fact that protests have been more radical in recent years could also be a factor.'
After last year's June 4 vigil, more than 200 protesters marched to North Point police station to protest against arrests made at a demonstration on March 6. Police said they were blocking the traffic in King's Road and after some scuffles arrested 53.
A March 6 protest over the government's annual budget ended up in clashes and resulted in 113 arrests. On July 2, 231 people were arrested as they occupied roads for a sit-in after the annual July 1 rally.
Meanwhile, two League of Social Democrats protesters, Chow Nok-hang, 27, and Wong Hin-wai, 23, were yesterday sentenced to two weeks in jail for disorderly behaviour during a rowdy protest on April 10.
The court heard that Chow ran onto a stage to throw a pile of 'hell money' - traditional paper offerings for the dead - at transport secretary Eva Cheng to protest against rising MTR fares. Wong grabbed Cheng's microphone from its stand.
Magistrate Li Kwok-wai rejected their claim that they had only exercised their freedom of expression. The two were freed on bail of HK$1,000 pending appeals.