Police handed out 18 penalty tickets for breach of social-distancing rules in Hong Kong on Labour Day as workers’ rights activists and anti-government protesters set up street booths and singalong demonstrations in a mall. Eleven of the tickets were issued at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, where more than 100 protesters gathered on Friday to sing Glory to Hong Kong , the movement’s anthem. Demonstrators were challenging the need to keep social-distancing measures in place, calling it a form of suppression amid a slowdown in the pace of new coronavirus cases locally. But health authorities warned that such events presented infection risks. Apart from the gathering, protesters also put up water barricades as roadblocks in Wong Tai Sin shortly after noon on Friday, according to a police statement. A 26-year-old man was arrested in that district for disorder in a public place and possession of offensive weapons, after officers said they found a cutter, pliers and an electronic saw on him. The government banned public gatherings of more than four people and imposed a fine of at least HK$2,000 (US$258) on offenders in late March, when the city was hit hard by the pandemic. The health scare brought anti-government protests, which broke last June, to a halt earlier this year. Anti-government protests return to Hong Kong on Labour Day As new Covid-19 cases dwindled, the city however broke a five-day streak of no infections on Friday after two patients were identified from a batch of Pakistan returnees. Pockets of protests broke out at the start of the long weekend, but not at the scale seen during the height of the civil unrest last year. Online calls for flash mobs in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay, Sai Ying Pun, Tai Po and Kwun Tong also did not materialise. Instead, opposition labour groups, led by the Confederation of Trade Unions, took to the streets to promote workers’ rights at booths across the city. A large crowd at the scene had surrounded our officers. Pepper spray was used at one point when officers’ warnings went unheeded Police spokesman On Friday evening, protesters gathered at New Town Plaza for a singalong. Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, citing social-distancing restrictions. Some journalists were also hit. A police spokesman said officers arrived at the mall at about 6pm, an hour before the event, because they had received multiple calls from the public asking for help. “Our staff at the scene appealed to those gathering to leave and had subsequently embarked on a disperse-and-search operation after numerous warnings proved ineffective,” he said. “A large crowd at the scene had surrounded our officers. Pepper spray was used at one point when officers’ warnings went unheeded.” Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu called the issuance of tickets “unreasonable”, saying he had observed that many were in groups of fewer than four. He also said shops and restaurants were operating as normal before police cordoned off the mall atrium as protesters started singing. “It was very arbitrary,” he said. Earlier on Friday, Labour Party vice-chairman Mak Tak-ching was taken away as he and seven other activists marched from the Admiralty Centre shopping mall to the nearby government headquarters to protest against police’s refusal to allow the CTU’s Labour Day march. They were all given tickets and fined, although Mak said they were marching in two groups of four. Mak was arrested on suspicion of obstructing officers in the execution of their duties, taken to Central Police Station and later released on bail. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.