Hong Kong protests: Police arrest 115 after biggest outbreak of violence since coronavirus crisis

South China Morning Post

The weekend also saw an early morning petrol bomb attack outside a respiratory infection clinic, as dozens demonstrated outside medical facilities

South China Morning Post |

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Anti-government protesters set roadblocks on Nathan Road, Mong Kok.

On Sunday, Hong Kong police announced that they had arrested 115 people in Mong Kok and Prince Edward, marking the biggest outbreak of anti-government protest violence since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Police arrested 71 men and 44 women, aged 15 to 54, over Saturday’s chaos on suspicion of taking part in unauthorised assemblies, possession of offensive weapons and instruments fit for unlawful purpose, arson, attacking police officers and obstructing them in the execution of their duties.

Among those arrested for unauthorised assembly was an off-duty auxiliary police officer.

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The 23-year-old teacher joined the force two years ago and was based in Kwun Tong, according to a police source. A police spokesman said any officer committing illegal acts would be handled seriously.

An officer pulled out his gun and pointed it at protesters attacking him on Saturday, but did not open fire. Police said he drew his weapon because he feared for his life as protesters hurled bricks, stones, bamboo sticks and other hard objects at him.

“Rioters began to gather around Nathan Road and Prince Edward Road West yesterday evening, blocking roads, setting fires, vandalising public facilities, hurling petrol bombs and attacking police officers with bricks and hard objects. Several police officers were injured as a result,” the government said on Sunday in an official statement.

Police charge down Nathan Road during a dispersal operation on February 29.
Photo: SCMP / Felix Wong

The trouble broke out when protesters gathered outside Prince Edward MTR station, where they believe demonstrators were killed by police during a clearance operation on August 31, despite repeated official denials and a lack of any evidence.

Officers arrived soon afterwards, clearing flowers that had been placed at exit B1 of the station and urging the crowd to disperse. But about 100 protesters started to block Nathan Road and clashes broke out as the crowd grew in size into the night.

Protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks at officers, who responded with tear gas and pepper spray.

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Online media outlet Stand News accused police of yanking off its reporter’s gas mask and removing his helmet. The reporter was wearing a press vest and was being cooperative, the outlet said.

The government placed the blame squarely on the protesters, saying: “At this difficult juncture, a small number of radicals still conducted violent acts of vandalism which disregard law and order. Their behaviour is outrageous.”

Anti-government protesters set a fire on Nathan Road in Mong Kok.
Photo: SCMP / Felix Wong

Police on Sunday also reported an early morning petrol bomb attack on the South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic, which the government condemned as “malicious behaviour” that “caused innocent patients to suffer”.

The clinic is one of 18 designated medical facilities for screening patients with minor respiratory symptoms of infection, which protesters do not want in their backyard.

Dozens protested outside three other clinics in Shau Kei Wan, Yau Ma Tei and Kowloon Bay, demanding the government find alternatives further away from residential neighbourhoods.

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Infectious disease expert Professor Gabriel Leung of the University of Hong Kong said it was a matter of practicality and empathy.

“Would you rather have these Hong Kong patients walking around on the streets, looking for clinics? Or would you rather have them going to a designated clinic which would be put under very strict protective measures?” he said.

“Even if you are selfish, you would want them to seek help as soon as possible.”