Hong Kong police said on Monday that they arrested 159 people over the weekend, describing the unrest on Hong Kong Island as catastrophic.

According to police figures, the total number of people arrested during the protest movement has risen to 1,117. On Saturday, police fired 241 tear gas canisters, 92 rubber bullets, one beanbag bullet, 10 sponge rounds and two live rounds as warning shots.

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From left: Steve Li Kwai-wah, Mak Chin-ho. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Over the past weekend, our Hong Kong has once again suffered a catastrophe,” said Assistant Police Commissioner Mak Chin-ho at a press conference on Monday. Mak added that protesters had thrown more than 80 Molotov cocktails and damaged one-third of all MTR stations to varying degrees.

Thousands of Hongkongers took to the street on Saturday on the fifth anniversary of the “831 NPCSC decision” — a framework handed down by China’s top lawmaking body that sought to impose further restrictions on the election of the city’s chief executive. The Civil Human Rights Front cancelled a planned march after police refused to approve it, but crowds took to the streets nonetheless, fighting running battles with officers and blocking major roads.

At the press conference, police defended the tactics used by officers including those seen on Saturday, which appeared to show elite officers — known as “raptors — striking people inside Prince Edward MTR station with batons and using pepper spray against them. Mak denied that a “beating” took place inside the station, saying that the police were enforcing the law.

When asked if the force would apologise for what happened at the MTR station, Mak dodged the question.

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No one died at Prince Edward MTR station, Mak added, saying that the rumour circulating online was false.

When asked about the two-hour lockdown of the station after the raid, Mak denied there was an “error” in failing to provide medical care, saying that they were worried protesters outside would prevent paramedics from leaving or try to seize the arrestees.

Chief Superintendent John Tse from the Police Public Relations Branch admitted that there was a “relatively long period” before those injured at Prince Edward station received medical treatment, but said that they had already received some first aid treatment at the scene. They were later transported to Lai Chi Kok MTR station before being sent to the hospital.

Responding to a photograph which showed a man carrying a suspected firearm and throwing a Molotov cocktail,  Tse said that the person was not an undercover police officer.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

Tse said police officers do not throw petrol bombs while on duty, and denounced attempts to smear the force.

As for the undercover officers who fired live rounds in Causeway Bay, Senior Superintendent Steve Li said that those officers had identified themselves as police and tried to arrest protesters. One officer reportedly decided to fire a warning shot after the protesters resisted arrest, while another fired a round of ammunition later as a warning against those who threw petrol bombs.

However, the undercover officers did not respond to reporters’ questions about their identity at the time.

Social worker charged

Sixteen people have been charged with rioting in relation to Saturday’s unrest in Causeway Bay. They made their first court appearance at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court next Monday afternoon.

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Social worker Jackie Chen being arrested by police. Photo: screenshot of HKPUSU PressCom video.

Those charged include 12 males and 4 females, aged 18 to 39.

Social worker Jackie Chen — a regular on the protest frontlines who often uses the loudspeaker to urge police to remain calm — was among those charged.

The charge sheet for the 16 people said they were rioting in the vicinity of Paterson Street in Causeway Bay, around 500 Hennessy Road and near Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.