A group of environmentalists have protested the arrests of their members – who were said to possess offensive “weapons” – by making soap in front of the police station where they were detained, using similar articles.

Four people associated with the group “Oh Yes It’s Free” – which aims at categorising rubbish and recycling it – were arrested on Thursday night as their warehouse in a Kwai Chung industrial building storing the articles was raided. Among them was a group member who rented the flat and three environmentalists who helped in the operation of the recycling activities.

Hand-made soap in front of Kwai Chung police station.
Hand-made soap in front of Kwai Chung police station.

Officers found 18 knives, metal rods, wooden batons, water pipes, 24 pairs of work gloves, a toy air gun, a walkie-talkie, liquid and crystallised chemicals, thinners, pepper solutions, fertilisers, and also a PassionTeens magazine published by political group Civic Passion.

The police have said that they were investigating whether the items were linked to the violent clashes in Mong Kok on Monday night.

The group’s founder Celia Lau told reporters that the police were “making misleading claims”. She said the “weapons” were materials that people did not need any more and were only temporarily stored in the warehouse. The warehouse was open to the public for people to pick up and reuse the materials, Lau said.

A banner criticising the arrests at Kwai Chung police station.
A banner criticising the arrests at Kwai Chung police station. Photo: Facebook.

Lau added that the arrested four were not in Mong Kok during the protests and they were not affiliated with political parties and groups.

“We have not seen similar articles during the Mong Kok incident – for example, soil, sodium hydroxide, knives and metal rods,” she said.

She questioned why the police said those were weapons on Thursday: “We felt [it was] strange and unbelievable.”

“The pepper solutions were not things we recycle, but we use them to kill insects and for environmentally friendly cleaning,” she added.

【警方濫捕環保人士 老屈回收倉為武器庫:團體即場示範製造環保手工梘】環保團體在葵涌警署外,即場示範用化學品(氫氧化鈉/鉀) 製做清潔用品(手工梘)的過程,當中所用到的各種材料,器材及回收物品絕對不是所謂「武器」。團體要求警方立即釋放三位環保人士。今天中午在葵涌警署外,「結束一桶專棄」團體舉辦抗議集會,抗議回收倉被當做武器庫,濫捕環保人士。現場有大批市民聲援。攝影/文字:Ming

Posted by Resistance Live Media on Thursday, 11 February 2016

Lau also mentioned that the pepper solutions and sodium hydroxide, one of the confiscated chemicals, were essential ingredients of hand-made soap.

Lau, the group’s members, other environmentalists and supporters of the arrested four gathered in front of the Kwai Chung police station on Friday afternoon to use the same kind of materials to make soap, in order to show these were not weapons at all.

“Suddenly [the materials] become weapons, [it] discourages environmental protection,” said a banner they hoisted outside the police station.

The confiscated articles.
The confiscated articles.

Lam Tsz-ching, a prominent environmentalist who ran in the district council election last year, claimed that the police had selectively picked sharper knives and more political magazines from the warehouse, but left behind shorter knives and less political newspapers and magazines such as Ming Pao, reported Apple Daily.

To Ka-lun, a Yuen Long district councillor, said the police’s claims were “discomforting.” He brought knives and pepper solutions from home and tried to report to the police that he held weapons, but the police did not accept the case.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.