Hundreds of people gathered inside a Ma On Shan mall last night to protest the arrest yesterday of five mall staffers who were filmed trying to prevent riot police from entering the premises during a demonstration on Monday night.
Local media initially reported that all five suspects were security guards, but police later clarified that the suspects — three men and two women, aged 28 to 62 — comprised four security guards and one customer service officer. All five were released on bail last night, Ming Pao reports.
After news of the arrests spread, netizens called on people to gather at the MOSTown Mall in Ma On Shan, where the suspects worked, for an impromptu rally in support of the five.
Livestreams from the mall showed people singing Glory To Hong Kong, a song written by an anonymous composer that has been adopted as the “unofficial anthem of Hong Kong.”
Protesters also chanted slogans like, “Release the security guards, the security guards committed no crime,” and collected signatures for a letter to the mall’s management
Maxwell Ip, the man behind the social media account “Mr & Ms HK People” — which responds to Hong Kong current affairs with illustrations in the style of Roger Hargreaves’ beloved Mr. Men and Little Miss children’s characters — also released a tribute to the five suspects, with a drawing depicting a mall staffer in cuffs and the caption “I want to let you guys know that you did nothing wrong.”
Dozens of riot police again entered the mall last night, prompting the crowds to boo and chant, “Dissolve the police force.” According to a Ming Pao live blog, officers left the mall about 8pm.
Police defended their decision to enter the mall on Monday at a press briefing the following day, saying they had received calls about damage done to shops and the train station, and citing Section 50 of the Police Force Ordinance, which appears to empower police to enter — forcibly, if need be — a building or residence if they have reason to believe that “any person to be arrested” is inside and may escape before a warrant can be issued.
The explanation did little to satisfy critics, among them Civic Party lawmaker and lawyer Alvin Yeung, who said police were effectively trying to intimidate security guards at other private premises into letting officers in whenever they wish.
At a press briefing at the Legislative Council last night, Yeung challenged the police’s interpretation of the law, maintaining that it specifies that they “have to have a clear idea who they want to arrest.”
“If this police force doesn’t know the law, study that before they make any mistake,” he said.
Henderson Land Property Development Company — the massive developer founded by tycoon Lee Shau Kee, and the owner of MOSTown — released a brief statement last night saying it was not appropriate to comment on the arrest of the five at the moment as judicial procedures are underway.
They also said that they would be closing MOSTown this weekend.