Following weeks of sing-along protests, police misconduct, and a chaotic LegCo meeting which saw 10 pan-democrats forcibly ejected from the chamber, hundreds of Hong Kong’s protesters turned out to shopping malls across the city yesterday to voice their anger at the government.
Many of the protests saw tense confrontations between the police and civilians, with participants accusing police officers of infringing on their rights, as well as excessive use of crowd control weapons like pepper spray and pepper balls. In a press statement today, the Hong Kong police force announced that its officers had arrested around 230 people aged 12 to 65 over the course of the day, while hospital officials told RTHK that 18 people were taken to the ER for injuries related to the protests.
According to online posts, pro-democracy protesters were intending to hold an unauthorized march, which was scheduled to start at 2pm in Tsim Sha Tsui. However, a heavy police presence near the meeting point and zealous stop-and-searches quashed any hope of a march, leading protesters to stage demonstrations inside shopping malls across the city instead.
That is how #hkpolice do stop and search in #hongkong, even though #Hongkongers were just standing on the pavement in one of the busiest tourist attractions on #mothersday2020. pic.twitter.com/Hv86pWFS9U
— Demosistō 香港眾志 😷 (@demosisto) May 10, 2020
Riot police told civilians that they were violating the government’s anti-epidemic restrictions on public gatherings, which bar people from gathering in groups of more than 8, and issued a total of 19 fixed penalty notices over the day. 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.
Live reports claimed that Luk was arrested, along with a 16-year-old girl who also works as a reporter for Student Depth Media. Police later said that they had detained the teens “for their own safety” and had not arrested either of them. However, Luk’s mother later told reporters that police had threatened to arrest her for child neglect if they saw the young reporter at another political demonstration. 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.
Police harass & threaten 13 yo journalist from Student Depth Media to “go back home & die!”
1700 |Tsim Sha Tsui Harbour City
Riot police also mocked his height by gesturing how short he is.
He was arrested & taken into a police van pic.twitter.com/PDGxihcoMQ
— Hong Kong – Be Water (@BeWaterHKG) May 10, 2020
Meanwhile, riot police fired pepper spray balls towards civilians in the luxury MOKO shopping center after someone allegedly threw a bottle at the police from a higher floor. Police reportedly arrested 10 people at the Mong Kok mall, including a 22-year-old man who they claimed was in possession of petrol bomb-making materials like gasoline, towels, and lighters, as well as unspecified “dangerous drugs”.
— Studio Incendo (@studioincendo) May 10, 2020
Photographs and videos of police pointing weapons at civilians and detaining demonstrators with excessive force at MOKO have been shared widely on Telegram, including a picture which reportedly shows a police officer pinning a young boy on the floor of the mall’s food court.
A video of a crying baby has also been widely shared, with netizens reporting that it was taken in MOKO after police fired pepper spray balls. Police said in a statement that they had taken “enforcement actions” after receiving reports from citizens that there were protesters who “held banners, chanted slogans, and breached public peace”.
As the night went on, protesters turned out to the streets of Mong Kok in scenes reminiscent of last year’s most violent clashes. At around 7pm, police officers on the ground in Mong Kok announced that people on the street were taking part in an unlawful public gathering, and conducted multiple forceful stop-and-searches.
At around 9:30pm, several police vans were seen speeding towards Fa Yuen Street and Shantung Street, forcing a large crowd of journalists to scatter. RTHK reports that a number of undercover officers dressed in black — the unofficial uniform of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters — subdued several protesters on the ground.
Around half an hour later, a small fire was set on Sai Yeung Choi Street South, which was promptly put out by a police officer. Throughout the night, riot police officers were seen pushing reporters who were covering the scenes. At 11:20pm, police detained a group of journalists, who were clearly wearing yellow vests, on Tung Choi Street and demanded that they turn off their camera, kneel, and show their credentials. In a video of the incident, police can be seen firing pepper spray towards the journalists at close range, and refusing to let them seek medical help from first-aid workers.
At around midnight, a police officer reportedly choked an Apple Daily journalist, surnamed Wong, from behind for 10-20 seconds while she was filming his colleagues rounding up civilians at the junction of Fa Yuen Street and Shantung Street. Wong fell unconscious and was rushed to hospital for treatment, but reportedly did not suffer any life-threatening injuries.
Footage of the scenes also shows Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong being knocked over and forcefully pinned against the ground by his head, while photos of Kwong drenched in pepper spray have been circulating on social media. Police later confirmed that Kwong was arrested for disorderly conduct. He was taken to hospital with a fever, head and neck pain, and several bruises.
this is the moment lawmaker Roy Kwong is subdued.
He was pushed forcefully to the ground, and riot police rushed to press his head onto the floor with their knees. pic.twitter.com/sTJ1KaYxoP
— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) May 10, 2020
Civilians accused police of indiscriminately rounding up passersby who were not taking part in the protests, with a video from Stand News showing two mothers tearfully screaming their children’s names from behind a police cordon, saying that they had been unfairly detained. One of the mothers begged the police to take her daughters, who have asthma, to the hospital.
#NOW An “unforgettable” #MothersDay moment for #HongKong. @StandNewsHK captured two mothers were screaming their children’s names in tears outside @hkpoliceforce cordon line in Mong Kok. @icablenews reported that over a hundred of people were arrested there. #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/sOw599GzAQ
— Jasmine Leung (@_jasmineleung_) May 10, 2020
Netizens, journalists, and lawmakers alike have slammed the police for their actions yesterday, with many criticizing the selective enforcement of the government’s rules. Speaking to Bloomberg, Labor Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung said, “Many large congregations in front of bars or in shopping areas were tolerated, while congregations related to protests are quickly being declared illegal and people are ticketed or arrested.”
Bars, which were officially allowed to reopen on Friday, have seen a massive turnout from customers. Over the weekend, hundreds of drinkers crowded the streets of Soho, a bar and restaurant hotspot which is popular with the expat community. A bartender in Soho who chose to remain anonymous told Coconuts Hong Kong, “It is as busy as before [the bar closure]. It’s just neverending.”
The bartender also noted that police visited popular drinking areas like Peel Street and Elgin Street, but only filmed the crowds and told them to keep a distance from one another, instead of using crowd control weapons or forceful crowd dispersal methods.