Lawmakers slam police for 'abuse'

Top News | Cindy Wan and Phoenix Un 9 Jul 2019

Lawmakers slammed police for "using unnecessary force and provoking" protesters during the Mong Kok clearance operation in which five people were arrested.

A sixth protester was arrested for having no ID at the earlier rally that drew 230,000 to the streets in Kowloon. About 1,000 of those deviated from the designated route and walked from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok along Nathan Road.

Police stopped their advance on the section of Nathan Road in front of HSBC headquarters at around 11pm on Sunday.

Without helmets and goggles, the crowd decided to disperse. But the escaping protesters were outflanked by another team of policemen from Shan Tung Street who hit them with batons, they said.

A protester was hit in the head by a baton, which constitutes using deadly force when protesters did not assault any officers, pan-democrat lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said.

Some policemen were photographed covering their shoulder numbers while threatening to beat protesters.

A plainclothes policeman wearing a helmet was questioned by some people about his warrant card. He replied: "Police don't need to show their warrant cards when performing duties."

Police also kicked protesters even when they were pinned on the ground, protesters said. Light was switched off from a police vehicle when an arrested protester was taken inside.

Two legislators - Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Au Nok-hin - went to Mong Kok and demanded to see a police commander after clashes broke out.

But they were asked to stand aside as police with long shields continued to charge forward into reporters and photographers even though there were no protesters behind them, media people said. Some reporters fell to the ground amid the chaos.

All streets were cleared by police before 2am. Five people were arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers and obstructing police in the execution of their duties.

Pan-democrat legislators strongly condemned police for a lack of ethics and professionalism, for using excessive force, and assaulting the press.

"Police seem to be adopting this dangerous strategy as they tried to provoke relative peaceful protesters last night," convener of the democracy camp meetings Claudia Mo Man-ching said. "When protesters were retreating, police besieged the protesters from both sides."

Tam said he and Au were on Nathan Road, surrounded by reporters, when police charged. He alleged that they blocked reporters from a McDonald's store, where cops allegedly beat up a protester. Tam had written to McDonald's to urge the store to retain the CCTV footage.

The force issued a statement yesterday, saying police set up a line of defense at the junction of Nathan Road and Argyle Street after some protesters occupied Nathan Road. As protesters refused to leave and acted violently, they dispersed them.

Police said some legislators blocked officers from advancing. "Not only did they seriously obstructed police from performing their duties, they also endangered themselves, the officers, reporters and protesters," it stated. Police also said reporters should refrain from "having zero distance" with police during an operation.

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