A police investigation has been launched into the handling of a man’s arrest after the suspect died in police custody. The case has been further complicated after the police force and Fire Services Department issued contradictory statements about the man’s death, with paramedics from the FSD asserting that the man had no pulse when they arrived on the scene, despite an earlier statement from the police saying that the man died 24 hours after his arrest.
The man was arrested on Nathan Road at around 5pm on Thursday after he threw a glass bottle at a moving vehicle and pushed over a parked motorcycle. A witness told Apple Daily that the man, who was shirtless, also hit another car, which the car’s driver reported to some uniformed police officers who were patrolling nearby.
A police spokesman told the press that when officers stopped the man to search him, the man “fiercely resisted” and officers then used “appropriate force” to detain him. Footage of the incident shows three officers and at least one passerby restraining the shirtless man and pinning him against the ground by his back, neck, and hands for around five to seven minutes.
The video also shows a police officer snapping at passersby who expressed concern at the force being used against the man, shouting, “Can’t you see he’s crazy? All you’re doing is moaning and whining — are you going to help? Then walk away!”
Police found four grams of suspected heroin on the man, and arrested him on suspicion of criminal damage, possession of a dangerous drug, and assaulting police officers. The arresting officers arranged for an ambulance to take the man to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment, where he died at 5:45pm the next day, according to the spokesman.
However, the Fire Services Department told the SCMP that the man was not breathing and didn’t have a pulse when paramedics arrived on the scene, directly contradicting the police’s statement. The police spokesman said that officers had already contacted eyewitnesses and launched a full investigation into the case. An autopsy will be arranged in order to determine the man’s cause of death.
The case has provoked an outcry among pro-democracy netizens, who are using the footage to support their claim that Hong Kong police use excessive force. Yesterday, a number of sing-along demonstrations in malls across the city were met with a heavy police presence, with riot police using crowd control weapons like pepper spray balls on civilians inside enclosed spaces. Later in the evening, a street protest in Mong Kok quickly turned violent, with police officers accused of indiscriminately detaining and using pepper spray on protesters, journalists, and passersby, as well as pinning people to the ground by their heads.