A Hong Kong police representative has denied accusations that officers hit a protester on the head when he was arrested. News video of the incident prompted the question at a police press conference.

Steve Li, senior superintendent from the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, said on Wednesday that the police officers filmed by HKFP on August 11 could have been using their batons to strike the ground.

Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Assuming the video has not been edited, what I saw was that the baton did not strike his head. The baton could have hit the ground, and so on,” Li said at the daily press briefing.

“I have seen [the video] in slow-motion, I have seen it many times. Sometimes it is like that: when different people watch it, they see different things.”

Li was referring to footage which was emailed to him for a response. At a press briefing two weeks ago, Li was asked about the same incident but declined to go into detail, saying he didn’t know if the reporter was referring to the same clip as the one he had watched.

Steve Li. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

On the evening in question, protesters in Causeway Bay took over a stretch of Hennessy Road outside the Sogo department store after a day of citywide road occupations with occasional clashes.

Shortly before 10pm, fights broke out between protesters and other men who were later identified as undercover officers participating in a “decoy operation” to arrest demonstrators.

Three police officers — two dressed as protesters and one in police riot gear — pushed a young man to the ground, with one officer pressing his hand and knee on the protester’s head.

According to the footage and a video shot from another angle, an officer was also captured thrusting his baton towards the protester’s face. The protester’s head was seen jerking twice and he yelped in pain.

A pool of blood appeared on the ground during the arrest, while the protester’s face was covered with blood. “Even my front tooth is broken, I am sorry,” he said.

Li was challenged on Wednesday about the video, which he said he watched “multiple times and for a long time.” Nevertheless, Li said he did not see officers striking anyone on the head.

“The most important thing is that, if the person involved [feels mistreated], he should use the appropriate channels to reflect this,” Li added.

Photo: Ip Ka Man, via Apple Daily.

Apple Daily reported that the protester, who identified himself as Chow Ka-lok, was taken to the San Uk Ling Holding Centre after his arrest. He was sent to the North District Hospital in the early hours of August 12, after a delay of around three hours.

Chow reportedly had chips on both his front teeth and needed stitches on his right eyelid and the bridge of his nose. He was charged with assaulting a police officer, and was released on bail on August 13.

‘Not torture’

At a previous press briefing on August 21, reporters also seized on Chow’s case to ask police whether his treatment constituted torture.

Li said at the time that officers put pressure on Chow to ensure he stopped resisting, so the case did not fit under the legal definition of “torture.”

Men dressed as protesters help police make arrests. They are suspected to be undercover officers, but never proved their identity to reporters. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“The protester said many things… I personally believe that, after watching the video, the two officers used appropriate force to subdue the man and conduct an arrest,” Li said.

“As for whether he had any prior injuries due to resisting arrest, I don’t have any information on that, so I cannot make that determination.”

An HKFP reporter at the scene did not see Chow showing visible signs of bleeding when he was first wrestled to the ground. When Chow was later carried away, the right side of his face was covered in blood, and there were clear wounds on the bridge of his nose and over his right eye.

File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Under the Crimes (Torture) Ordinance, torture is defined as a public official “intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering on another in the performance or purported performance of his or her official duties.”

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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.