Hong Kong police said 148 people aged between 13 and 63 years old were arrested on Monday during a city-wide strike that escalated into mass protests.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, police said the force had used around 20 sponge grenades, 140 rubber bullets and 800 tear gas grenades against protesters who had blocked roads and police stations. Eight districts — Tin Shui Wai, Tuen Mun, Wong Tai Sin, North Point, Admiralty, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui — saw demonstrations, with clashes breaking out in some residential neighbourhoods.

August 5 protest tuen mun tear gas
Tear gas fired at a protest in Tuen Mun on August 5, 2019. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Police public relations branch Chief Superintendent John Tse played a video purporting to show protesters acting violently, including throwing firebombs at the Kwai Chung police station, starting fires around Sha Tin police station, and throwing corrosive liquids at officers. Seven officers were injured throughout the day, he said.

Of those arrested, 95 were male and 53 were female. They were arrested for rioting, unlawful assembly, assaulting police officer, obstructing police officer and possession of offensive weapons.

Tse, who called the protesters “rioters,” said: “They showed a total disregard of the rule of law.”

John Tse Kong Wing-cheung
From left: John Tse and Kong Wing-cheung.

Police previously said 1,000 tear gas canisters were shot between June 9 and last Sunday.

When asked why 800 tear gas rounds were used in a single day, police public relations branch Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung said it was due to the increased intensity, frequency and breadth of protests on Monday.

“Violent incidents yesterday were equal to the whole of June,” he said.

Kong blamed protesters for occupying residential neighbourhoods, saying that the police had no choice but to use tear gas in those areas.

Groups of men in Tsuen Wan and North Point also attacked protesters with sticks and knives on Monday night.

Kong said riot police in Tsuen Wan arrived on the scene at around 11pm – within 15 minutes of the initial distress call.

But officers were unable to get to North Point to deal with the attack until 11pm, almost three hours after they were called at around 7pm. He said this was owing to the number of protesters surrounding North Point police station.

“There were many violent incidents across Hong Kong from [Monday] afternoon. Our colleagues were sent to different districts to handle them,” he said.

Kong said he was not certain if any of those men were arrested or if they included in the preliminary arrest figure.

The Junior Police Officers’ Association issued a statement on Saturday calling the protesters “cockroaches.”

When asked if the statement violated police rules, Tse said emotions were running high among all Hong Kong people.

“Police are also humans… police suffer from verbal abuse, and physical assaults from protesters, and doxxing and online bullying when they get off work,” he said. “It is understandable that anyone would be emotional under this pressurised working environment.”

Tse said a police psychological services group will extend help to affected officers. He added the public can file complaints through the police’s internal complaints system.

Yuen Long attacks

When asked about the Yuen Long mob attacks on July 21, where police were criticised as slow to respond, Kong denied any police collusion with triads.

police armoured vehicles
Police deployed two armoured vehicles on August 5, 2019.

He said 23 people had been arrested for unlawful assembly during the July 21 incident.

Police vehicles drove past the mob several times but officers did not react. Tse declined to provide a reason for the inaction.

Journalists protest

At the press briefing, reporters knocked their pens against their helmets in protest of alleged mistreatment by frontline officers.

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Lam Yin-pong, a Stand News reporter and Hong Kong Journalists Association executive committee member, read a statement saying that while covering protests in recent weeks, officers had pointed flashlights at reporters’ eyes and cameras, pushed them with shields, insulted and swore at them, and arbitrarily arrested them.

“We strongly condemn the police for abusing their power to prevent journalists from covering the news,” the representative said. “We urge the police to be professional, to defend press freedom and respect journalists’ rights.”

Tse said the police will bring reporters’ opinions to colleagues and improve accordingly: “I understand the difficulties you have faced during these times,” he said.

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.