Hong Kong Police Pepper-Spray Elderly Protester During Chaotic Weekend

A man covers his face as riot police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters in Yeun Long district in Hong Kong on September 21, 2019. - Riot police and protesters fought brief skirmishes in a town close to the Chinese border on September 21, the latest clashes during …
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty

Weekend protests in Hong Kong turned into ugly street battles after sunset featuring exchanges of firebombs and tear gas between demonstrators and police.

A renowned 73-year-old activist, one of the “grandpa protesters” who have put themselves on the front lines so that young people will not be harmed, was pepper-sprayed into submission by the police.

The grandpa protesters encourage young demonstrators to remain peaceful, but their advice is not always heeded. The more extreme wing of the youth protest movement, which tends to become active after dark, believes violence and vandalism are necessary to capture and hold the attention of Hong Kong’s government.

The authorities, in turn, characterize the entire movement as lawless and violent. The police have been criticized for using the destructive acts of extreme protesters to justify harsh actions against the entire movement.

A group called the Protect Our Kids Campaign that works with the grandpa protesters claimed police brutality when one of its yellow-vest-clad members was surrounded by dozens of riot police and beaten. 

The police them moved to interfere with a bystander who was trying to record video of the beating by shining powerful flashlights into the camera, calling her a “cockroach,” and threatening to arrest her:

“We are infuriated by this incident of police brutality. Our member did not resist arrest nor in any way attack the police,” said Protect Our Kids member Roy Chan.

We have contacted our member’s legal representative, and learned that his gums and teeth are bleeding and that he is experiencing dizziness,” Chan added.

Chan, a preacher, compared the videotaped beating to a similar incident during the 2014 democracy protests and said the police have “not only deepened the cleavage between police and citizens, but also aroused the wrath of God.” He called upon the police to “repent their evil deeds.”

A police official responded by attempting to dismiss the video as merely depicting police kicking a “yellow object” of indeterminate origin, a tactic that did not go far with reporters who pointed out the “object” was clearly a human being. The official then claimed some other video footage exists that will prove the police did not use excessive force against the “yellow object.”

The grandpa protester who was hit with pepper spray over the weekend, Chan Ki-kau, was pushed and sprayed by police when he tried to speak with the officers who were arresting a group of teenagers.

Protesters were accused of physically assaulting several pro-China counter-protesters and attempting to take vigilante revenge against several men accused of trying to tear down protest displays, plus one man accused of sexually assaulting a female paramedic. Demonstrators blocked off some key roads with flaming barricades and threw objects at the police after peaceful daytime sit-ins at shopping malls became unruly. 

In addition to sitting in at shopping malls, protesters have begun targeting individual shops and merchandise brands for having ties to the Chinese government or bowing to government pressure during the Hong Kong political crisis. Chinese telecom giant Huawei was among the brands singled out by activists, who also trampled Chinese flags and threw them in the trash.

Major rallies were held in Yuen Long, where a landmark event in the protest saga occurred in July, the beating of railroad passengers by a mob of white-clad thugs linked to organized crime. Many protest actions at stations of Hong Kong’s MTR railway are billed as punishment for the railroad because it either looked the other way during the Yuen Long attack or actively collaborated in it. Protest leaders have also criticized MTR for shutting down rail services to make it harder for demonstrators to move around the city.

Other violent clashes were reported at Mong Kok, a crowded district that has seen numerous previous confrontations between protesters and police, and in Tuen Mun, where a scheduled march to protest disruptive singers in the local park grew larger than expected and refused to disperse at the appointed hour.

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