Occupy Central

Chaos in Mong Kok as police use batons, pepper spray to repel surge of protesters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 October, 2014, 6:27am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 October, 2014, 12:42pm

Clashes between police and protesters continued into the early hours of Saturday morning in multiple locations across Mong Kok, causing a blockade of both Nathan Road and Argyle Street. 

By 1am, police had pulled back from the crowd and formed a cordon at the junction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road.

After midnight, police were forced to retreat from Nathan Road northwards, as more protesters flooded into the area - with several picking up metal barriers as they arrived. 

At Lung Wo Road in Admiralty, protesters dashed onto the road in a bid to stop traffic. Police with masks and batons pushed protesters back onto the pavement and warned then they would be arrested if they tried to block the road again.

Occupy Central movement issued a statement condemning Chief Executive CY Leung’s administration for launching clearance operations before dialogue with students resumed.

“The clearance has triggered off a new round of occupations and worsened the relationship between police and citizens,” the statement read.

The situation remained tense outside the Wing Lung Bank Centre as protesters spilled from southbound Nathan Road into the northbound lanes, seeking to advance in the direction of Yau Ma Tei. Protesters opened umbrellas and were pepper sprayed by police on more than one occassion.

In repeated confrontations on other sections of the road, riot police formed a line charging towards protesters with their batons drawn, forcing protesters without umbrellas to retreat. 

At Lung Wo Road outside government headquarters in Admiralty, a teenage girl and boy were taken away by police, after some protesters dashed onto the road in a bid to stop traffic.

Police have brought dogs to deter protesters from approaching the road, which has been periodically blocked by flash mobs over the past few nights.

Meanwhile, other groups of protesters advanced towards Argyle Street from Sai Yeung Choi South Street, Portland Street and Shanghai Street. Protesters dropped coins on the road when traffic lights turned green and continued to stay there picking up the coins when lights turned red. 

Some buses were stuck on Argyle Street and Shanghai Street and traffic was severely disrupted.  A new blockade has been erected by protesters on Dundas Street using bamboo poles and rubbish bins.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club issued a statement late on Friday to condemn the detention of an expatriate journalist who was covering the Occupy protests in Mong Kok. 

READ MORE: Hundreds clash with police after the fall of Mong Kok

The statement said award-winning Getty photographer Paula Bronstein was detained by police during the protests, adding that other journalists at the scene had also been threatened with use of force. 

“These tactics are a flagrant violation of the media’s right to report this unfolding story,” the FCC statement read. It also demanded the immediate release of Bronstein and an end to the intimidation.

As Mong Kok was plunged into chaos, crowds also started to mill around the edge of Lung Wo Road in Admiralty late on Friday. 

The police have cordoned off the pedestrian walkway from Tamar Park down to the chief executive's office, forcing protesters to gather on the other side of Lung Wo Road.

About 150 people are congregated there, less than the previous night, and two police dogs have been spotted among police ranks in preparation for any possible confrontation.

Earlier, Alex Chow of the Federation of Students confirmed that both his group and the government have agreed to meet next Tuesday, with both sides sending five representatives to talks that would be broadcast live on RTHK.

Chaotic scenes erupted in Mong Kok on Friday night after heated clashes and a stand-off between police and protesters bought traffic in the area to a standstill once again.

Clashes broke out in Mong Kok between protesters and police shortly after 7.30pm, triggered by a protester who attempted to remove a police barricade tried to enter the northbound lane of Nathan Road near Wai Fung Plaza.

A police inspector then took out his baton after his lower-ranking colleague failed to secure that barricade. The red flag was raised, and the inspector used his baton to hit back a yellow tent held by protesters in the front row. He also aimed his swings at protesters' umbrellas.

At one point, protesters started removing barricades set up off Wai Fung Plaza trying to break through to the northbound lane of Nathan Road. Police officers quickly pushed them back and used pepper spray to stop them.

Scores of officers armed with riot gear soon arrived and clashed with protesters. Police were then seen swinging their batons spontaneously and pressing their shields against the crowd in an attempt to push them back to the protest zone.

At 9.45pm, police issued a statement to “strongly condemn” the actions of protesters occupying roads in Mong Kok for “endangering public order and public safety”.

“They wilfully blocked major thoroughfares, charged police cordon lines and shoved police officers to the ground,” the statement said.

Three police officers were injured in scuffles: one with a head injury, one with a dislocated shoulder and one with a hand injury respectively, police said, urgin people not to go to the area.

Yan Chan, who was in the front row at the time, said the police's handling was inappropriate.

"They started using pepper spray very quickly after flags were raised," said the 24-year-old.

Chan said he was pushed by police officers with shields. "The crowd couldn't retreat fast enough but they kept pushing forward," he said.

"There was no fighting back by the protesters at all," he added.

During the scuffles, a man was subdued by several police officers after he allegedly grabbed an officer's baton and refused to let go. He was handcuffed and taken away.

Two other men were also taken away after 9pm after they tried to rush to the northbound lane of Nathan Road.

Police were forced to close both the north and southbound lanes on a section of Nathan Road in Mong Kok. Argyle Street was also later closed to traffic, cordoned off by police cars.

This morning, traffic on Argyle Street and northbound on Nathan Road had resumed after police operations, leaving protesters to gather on the southbound lane of Nathan Road.  

Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung on Friday night called on protesters in Admiralty to move there and defend the occupation zone, in view of efforts by police to keep traffic open in Mong Kok,

“If the defence line in Mong Kok is lost, Admiralty will be in danger... If we lose any of our three battlegrounds [Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok], the whole movement will suffer a blow,” Wong said as he addressed crowds of protesters in Admiralty.

Addressing the same crowd, Alex Chow of the Federation of Students tells protesters that the attitude of the government over the past few days had been nothing short of ambivalent. "They said they want to resume talks, but then they swept away the streets today."

Chow said there is an "internal conflict" within the ranks of the government and stressed that the proposed meeting with government representatives was just another step along the road to achieving universal suffrage.

The pro-democracy movement earlier questioned the government’s sincerity in engaging in dialogue following a dawn operation that returned traffic to the streets in one of the busiest areas of the city in a dawn operation.

“If [the government] continues to clear protest sites gradually under the disguise of removing barricades, it would only provoke more people to take to streets.”

Emotional stress has plagued frontline police officers, chief superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch Hui Chun-tak admitted on Friday afternoon, when answering a media questions on whether psychological stability affects police officers and their ability to control emotions while handling protesters.

His answers came as more reports of alleged police brutality surfaced over the past two days, following a video that allegedly showed seven officers beating up protester and Civic Party member Ken Tsang in a dark corner in Tamar Park.

Nathan Road northbound and Argyle Street were reopened to traffic after police removed barricades, tents, shrines and umbrellas. Police officers on motorbikes then escorted the first civilian vehicles to pass along the Kowloon thoroughfares in the past three weeks.

The police action seemed to have an adverse effect however, as passersby clogged up the pavement and jewellery shops – which had been open during the protests – were forced to close temporarily.

“We want to let the people here know we will fight side by side with them until the end,” said the federation’s Ivan Lau.

Civic Passion founder Wong Yeung-tat said the media had misreported the police operation in Mong Kok this morning.

“Thankfully, more protesters came this morning so we managed to hold our ground.”

He added that he and his fellow Civic Passion members would only join the occupation of a new site if it was a decision made by the majority of the group.

“I think occupying streets is already a tactic that requires the lowest costs,” he said.

Lines of police officers advanced towards some 30 protesters early this morning at the protest camp at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street and surrounded them within minutes. Other officers dismantled the barricades behind the police cordon. Police then proceeded to remove tents at the intersection.

“How could you expect us to summon another 200 people to come? If the police come to clear our site, I will just ask them to give me some time to pack my stuff,” said protester Angel Szeto.

Commenting on several policemen’s alleged attack on the Civic Party’s Ken Tsang Kin-chiu on Wednesday, Lai said the police would handle the case “seriously and fairly” and “not tolerate any illegal behaviour by police officers”.

We have the system and law in place to handle the matter. We should not politicise it, nor should we allow an isolated event to affect our evaluation on the police,” he said.

“On that day, if protesters broke through the cordon, many people could fall down and hurt themselves … and citizens would also blame the police for not enforcing the law swiftly.