Hundreds, Ages 12 to 65, Arrested in Hong Kong Mother’s Day Protests

Police arrest anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, early Monday, May 11, 2020. A pro-democracy movement that paralyzed Hong Kong for months last year has shown signs of reviving in recent weeks as the coronavirus threat eases. The government recently decided to allow public gatherings of eight people, up from four …
AP Photo/Vincent Yu

A violent crackdown featuring dozens of riot police resulted in the arrest of 230 people, including a lawmaker and several teen journalists, in Hong Kong on Sunday. Hong Kong protesters had organized peaceful Mother’s Day themed events to demand more stringent protections for their democracy.

The Hong Kong protest movement that began in mid-2019 is nearing its anniversary, triggered last year by a proposed law that would have allowed the Chinese Communist Party to arrest and extradite anyone present in the city if accused of violating communist laws. The protesters insisted that this would make Chinese laws viable on Hong Kong soil, a violation of the Basic Law, the city’s autonomous charter.

The Hong Kong government agreed after months of protests that attracted millions of people to withdraw that proposed law. It has since ignored four other demands from the protest movement, including the right to directly elect all the city’s lawmakers and an independent investigation into instances of police brutality.

Hong Kong lifted most of the restrictions it implemented against the Chinese coronavirus, including allowing bars and gyms to open, on Friday.

Members of the Hong Kong protest movement organized large congregations of people in places such as malls, though the law still prohibits gatherings in public of more than eight people. Police noted that most of the arrests on Sunday were in response to violations of that ordinance, without referencing the video and photographic evidence that officials sent hundreds of police in full riot gear to flood the malls in question, creating even larger crowds.

“Police condemn protestors for disregarding the Government’s disease prevention and control measures, and participating in or organising prohibited group gatherings,” authorities said in a statement on Monday. Police said that the 230 people arrested ranged in ages from 12 to 65 and that most are facing a variety of  charges including “unlawful assembly,” “disorder in public places,” and “failing to produce proof of identity.”

The local broadcaster reported that hospitals had taken in 18 people at their emergency services as a result of police violence against them at protests. The police statement did not mention this information.

Police also claimed some of those arrested were in possession of illegal drugs and other had assaulted police officers.

“Members of the public are advised not to participate in any prohibited group gathering. Police adopt zero tolerance against any violation and will take strict enforcement action,” the statement concluded.

The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported that protesters congregated in various locations throughout the city, the most tumultuous being the Mong Kok neighborhood, the Kowloon shopping district, and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui. Videos show dozens of riot police in Mong Kok descending into an otherwise peaceful crowd late on Sunday.

Earlier that day, in Harbour City, police rushed into the mall and began attacking protesters and antagonizing journalists, including teen student journalists. One student, which the outlet Coconuts identified only by the last name “Luk,” is reportedly 13-years-old and was working with Student Depth Media when he was arrested. It is unclear at press time if this child was the same as the 12-year-old police identified, and that initial reports incorrectly reported his age.

“As tensions rose in Harbour City, riot police officers were seen fighting with police liaison officers, while riot police in another part of the mall were filmed taunting and intimidating a 13-year-old student journalist, surnamed Luk, from Student Depth Media before eventually detaining him,” Coconuts reported. The outlet added that a 16-year-old colleague was also allegedly arrested.

Police later claimed that the children were taken away to prevent them from getting hurt and were not criminally charged.

“Luk also told reporters that police claimed he was violating child labor laws by working as a journalist, despite his assertion that he was a volunteer and did not receive any payment for his efforts,” Coconuts added.

Videos surfaced online of police antagonizing the child, who was wearing a neon vest, which Hong Kong requires of journalists so that they are clearly visible as separate from the protesting crowds.

In MOKO Mall, an affluent shopping center in Mong Kok, police responded to protests by storming the area and deploying pepper spray. The violence began, reports indicate, when police claimed that someone had thrown a bottle at them. Pro-democracy social media accounts have circulated a harrowing video of the scene inside the mall showing a woman using a cloth to attempt to protect a baby from the pepper spray fumes. The child appears screaming, apparently affected by the spray. Police have not denied the veracity of the video, but Breitbart News could not independently corroborate that it occurred on Sunday.

The Mong Kok exchanges appear to be the most violent, resulting in one of the few known injuries: pro-democracy lawmaker Roy Kwong’s, who police assaulted and left hospitalized with a neck injury. Kwong was arrested for being a part of a protest in the streets of Mong Kok. RTHK reported that police beat Kwong with a baton and pressed their knees against his head while keeping him in place on the ground. It added that officers accused Kwong of throwing a water bottle at them, which Kwong vehemently denies.

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