Political and activist groups have issued statements condemning both the use of force by the police and the acts of violence by protesters during Monday’s clashes in Mong Kok. Meanwhile, pro-democracy student activist group Scholarism have criticised the police for firing warning shots.

“The police force has regulations stating that officers must not shoot into the sky under any circumstances, as Hong Kong has a dense population and there is an inherent danger with such an act that stray bullets could easily injure passers-by,” Scholarism said on Facebook on Tuesday.

mong kok fehd riot protest
Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

“Scholarism believes that the protests fell into chaos last night because the police used inappropriate force,” the group added. “The incident of firing shots amplified emotions on both sides, and the situation spun out of control.” It also said that it was the police which first used force on protesters, deliberately angering the public.

See also: HKFP Lens – Protesters light fires during clashes in Mong Kok

In a report dating back to May, 2007, Apple Daily cited Junior Police Officers Association Chairman Chung Kam-wa as saying that police officers must not fire warning shots into the sky.

mong kok fehd riot protest
Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Obstructing the press

The Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) also condemned both  “troublemakers” for directing their anger towards  journalists and the police for assaulting reporters during the protests.

“We strongly condemn these acts of violence which endanger the lives of others and obstruct the freedom of the press… they damage the core values of Hong Kong and do nothing to solve the contradiction that Hong Kong faces,” it said.

According to the HKJA, during the protests, a Ming Pao reporter was beaten up by a policeman even after stating his identity. Journalists from RTHK and TVB were also reportedly injured by protesters, whilst an i-Cable TV cameraman was also hit in the head.

mong kok fehd riot protest
Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Civic Party said in a statement that the incident occurred because the government had failed to properly manage street hawkers, stating that the situation would have been avoided. It condemned protesters for assaulting police and journalists, resulting in injuries and damage to property, but also criticised the police for firing shots into the sky.

“Violence does not solve any problems – and the focus then turns to the chaos, rather than the problem of street hawkers policy itself… we strongly condemn those who used violence and believe that they must face legal consequences.”

The Democratic Party also denounced the violent acts and offered their sympathy to those who were hurt. It urged a full investigation over the firing of warning shots by a police officer, and asked the government to reflect on the underlying problems such as the people’s frustrations and the lost of faith in the government.

Clarification 16:40: A previous version of this report suggested police had used blanks when discharging a firearm. It was later confirmed that live ammunition was used.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.