Alert over vehicle checks by protesters

Top News | Cindy Wan 9 Oct 2019

Police have warned of a new trend in which protesters stop vehicles to search for off-duty officers after arresting 19 people suspected of doing so over the weekend.

The 17 men and two women - aged between 13 and 32 - were among 241 people arrested from Friday to Monday. Among them were 77 arrested for breaching the new anti-mask law.

In a police press meeting yesterday, New Territories North regional commander, Frank Kwok Yam-yung said some people have unlawfully set up road blocks to intercept vehicles since last Friday when the anti-mask law was announced.

Kwok said the protesters forcibly checked the phones and belongings of the drivers and passengers, looking for off-duty officers and people who oppose the protests.

The 19 suspects were arrested after police enhanced patrols in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O and Eastern District.

They were arrested for illegal assembly, using facial coverings, possession of offensive weapons and obstructing police.

They are also liable to loitering and criminal intimidation, which carry up to two years and five years in jail, respectively, Kwok said.

"The force will consider using all possible means to combat such behavior," he said, urging road users to alert police immediately when encountering the illegal checkpoints.

Up until yesterday, 50 men and 27 women aged between 12 and 41 had been arrested under the new anti-mask law.

Seventy-four were arrested for using facial coverings while three refused to remove the masks.

Kwok said Hong Kong has reached "a very critical stage" with protesters' escalating violence.

Over 200 vandalism reports were made in just four days - from Friday to Monday - involving at least 40 MTR stations, 100 shops and 80 traffic lights.

Fourteen officers were injured in the weekend operations, including one who sustained multiple injuries from petrol bombs in Yuen Long on Saturday and another whose head and neck were severely injured by a bike thrown from a bridge in Tseung Kwan O on Monday.

Kong Wing-cheung, acting chief superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch, called the attacks "acts of attempted murder."

Kong also reiterated police have the right to enter any venue without obtaining warrants if they suspect crimes have occurred.

He said security guards at Ma On Shan mall MOSTown stopped riot police from entering to handle vandalism cases on Monday night.

Police also said people can report intelligence and videos of criminal acts on the force's instant messaging apps WeChat and Line via +852 5333 3103.

Chan Chi-yung, senior superintendent of Information Systems Wing, said WhatsApp rejected using its platform for police intelligence collection. People can also e-mail police at hotline@police.gov.hk.

cindymt.wan@singtaonewscorp.com

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