Six people were arrested in connection with an anti-extradition protest on Sunday which saw crowds choke major roads in Mong Kok. The street occupation came hours after a mass march to the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminal to lobby mainland Chinese visitors on the issue.
Clashes broke out in the late evening as police baton-charged protesters in an attempt to clear lanes in the congested retail district. Five people were arrested for assaulting and obstructing officers in the process, police said. Another person was arrested earlier in the day for failing to produce proof of identity.
“After repeated but futile warnings, police took actions to disperse the protesters around 11pm. During the process, some protesters resisted and police arrested five persons for assaulting a police officer and obstructing a police officer in the execution of duties,” the police statement read. “It is the policy of [the] police to facilitate all peaceful public events while at the same time ensuring public safety and public order. Police strongly condemn the illegal acts of protesters for blocking the roads.”
Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of mass protests sparked by the government’s controversial extradition bill, which would enable the city to handle the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions where there are no prior agreements – most notably, mainland China. The bill was suspended on June 15, but not axed.
The largely peaceful march from Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui to the West Kowloon high-speed rail station on Sunday was initiated by protesters online and reiterated five key demands, including the complete withdrawal of the bill, universal suffrage and for charges against protesters to be dropped.
Organisers said over 230,000 people had attended, although police put the figure at 56,000.
Hundreds of people headed north into Mong Kok – another popular destination among mainland tourists – from 9pm onwards, halting traffic on six roads including parts of Nathan Road, Sai Yeung Choi Street, and Canton Road. They were eventually blocked off by police at the intersection of Argyle Road and Nathan Road, forming a line of defence while holding open umbrellas.
Protesters retreated around 10.30pm. Police officers equipped with riot shields began the clearance operation at around 11pm. The area was largely cleared of protesters by 1am.
During the Mong Kok clearance operation, HKFP saw police swing their batons at crowds, and some pinned protesters to the ground for arrest.
Protesters accused police of using excessive force. A woman said in a widely-shared Facebook post that she and her boyfriend were threatened by police with arrest while exiting a shopping mall in Mong Kok. Kathy Cheng said officers had pointed their batons at the pair and, at one point, pushed them using their shields.
Hongkongers march to China express rail station to ‘spread anti-extradition law message to mainland tourists’ https://t.co/hJnQ8SKrSS #antiELAB #HongKong #china #NoToChinaExtradition pic.twitter.com/TRqbll3oGe
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 7, 2019
“I was so scared at that moment that they would push me down on the ground with their shields and beat me up,” she wrote. “I could not stop crying after I got home. Can anyone tell me how do I file a complaint? How do I get my justice?”
The altercation came weeks after police used rubber bullets against protesters occupying thoroughfares in Admiralty on June 12, in a move that drew international condemnation.