Mong Kok, Prince Edward and Kowloon Bay MTR stations remained closed on Sunday morning after police dispersed protesters on the platform and on trains on Saturday evening.
40 people were arrested at Prince Edward station alone for offences such as unauthorised assembly, criminal damage and obstructing police.
At a 3.15am press conference, Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu defended police tactics after officers stormed the platform, deploying pepper-spray and leaving passengers bloodied.
She said that officers responded after protesters fought with a member of the public. Video footage showed an altercation between protesters and several older men which escalated into clashes. One man appeared to be wielding a hammer shortly before a fire extinguisher was set off in the train carriage.
Yu refuted the suggestion that police were beating protesters: “When we were arresting them, they were resisting, so we used appropriate force to subdue them.”
When asked how police could identify whether people whom they later pepper-sprayed were protesters, she said that some were changing their clothes in the station: “We will use our professional ability to identify whether they are civilians or protesters”.
According to local media Oriental Daily, a man was waving a hammer at #AntiELAB protesters at Prince Edward station, before riot police stormed the MTR train. pic.twitter.com/59ZkjJCOEp
— Eric Cheung (@EricCheungwc) August 31, 2019
“The situation at the time was chaotic, as you can see from your screens,” she added. She did not answer questions over whether the hammer-wielding man was arrested and whether the use of force was proportionate.
‘Licensed terror attacks’
On Sunday morning, pro-democracy legislators condemned the police over the use of violence during their operations: “Hong Kong people are now facing licensed terror attacks not just from the police force but from the Hong Kong government,” said the convenor of the democratic camp Claudia Mo.
“What happened on an MTR train at Prince Edward Station was blatantly clear through press footage and photos, and police would still dare to deny… that [they] were beating up ordinary citizens indiscriminately.”
The Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki, a medical doctor, said that it was particularly unacceptable that police locked down Prince Edward and prevented medics from entering to treat wounded persons inside: “This is shameless, behaviour unbefitting of monsters.”
The MTR said in a statement that the three stations remain closed on Sunday because of damage to its facilities. On Saturday night, five train lines – Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong, Island, Tseung Kwan O and South Island – were closed entirely.
Since last week, the rail operator has threatened to shut stations during protests without notice, after it was criticised by Chinese state media for purportedly “assisting” protesters.
At the late-night press conference, Senior Superintendent Yu also confirmed that two live rounds were fired by undercover police in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.
She said that protesters surrounded two undercover officers dressed in black and began attacking them with sticks and bricks, and the shots were fired as a warning.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, protests also broke out at various MTR and police stations including Prince Edward, Chai Wan and Hang Hau. In Chai Wan, police fired tear gas to disperse protesting residents.
Airport sit-in and class boycotts
Protests are set to continue on Sunday. A sit-in is planned to take place at the Hong Kong Airport, in spite of a court injunction banning protests and obstructive activities at Chek Lap Kok which was extended until further notice last week.
At 11am on Sunday, the Airport Authority announced the closure of hourly parking spaces at Car Park 1.
Further ahead, the police have banned scheduled protests in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Salisbury Garden on Monday and Tuesday, but have granted a letter of no objection to similar protests in Tamar Park. They are set to coincide with strikes and class boycotts due to take place early next week.
Bail for activists
Meanwhile, the three pro-democracy legislators arrested on Friday – Au Nok-hin, Jeremy Tam and Cheng Chung-tai – were all been granted police bail on Saturday afternoon. Au’s assistant Sam Yip, however, was arrested on Sunday.
Former student leader Althea Suen and district councillor Rick Hui have likewise been granted bail, although the whereabouts of pro-independence activist Andy Chan – who was arrested at the airport – remains unknown.
Meanwhile, Demosisto activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow were released on Friday evening after being granted bail by the Eastern Magistrates’ Court.
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