Arrested Hong Kong protesters have alleged torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the police during their detention at a facility near the mainland border.

On Friday evening, organisers said 50,000 people gathered at Central’s Edinburgh Place to show support for arrestees who had been taken to San Uk Ling Holding Centre – a former detention camp for immigrants crossing the border.

File photo: InMedia.

Allegations of abuse were raised shortly after 54 people were brought to the facility following arrests on the night of August 11. Of those detained, 31 were later hospitalised, with six treated for fractured bones.

‘Two officers took turns’

Organisers of Friday’s rally read out a statement by one male arrestee who said he was tortured after he refused to unlock his mobile phone for the police – even though a court warrant is generally required.

“[They] sprayed pepper spray directly into his face and neck, despite the fact his hands were tied behind his back,” said an organiser. “He was then taken to San Uk Ling… where he heard the screams of another male[s].”

The San Uk Ling rally in Central. Photo: HKFP.

“His hands and feet were tied to the legs of a table, and one police officer put a mask over his head… he was then subjected to torture beyond what he had imagined, and two officers took turns to abuse him.”

The organiser said that, after over 30 hours in custody without access to a lawyer, the protester was taken to court: “Before being taken to court, in order to destroy the evidence, officers washed the victim with water and antiseptic.”

Another female arrestee – who appeared and spoke at the rally – said that she was strip-searched at San Uk Ling by a female officer, but within sight of male officers. She added that when male officers handcuffed her, they slapped her breasts.

She said she suspected police deliberately chose to send student activists to San Uk Ling, after seeing a mark next to her name on a police list noting that she studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong – even though the information was incorrect.

Photo: Kevin Cheng / United Social Press.

Barrister Billy Li – who went to San Uk Ling to provide legal advice to protesters – told the crowd that he was denied entry by police for several hours with the excuse that there were not enough interview rooms available.

‘Resource allocation’

At Friday afternoon’s police press conference, superintendent John Tse said the force no longer detained protesters at San Uk Ling. He added the first arrestees were sent to the facility on August 5, and the most recent on September 2.

Tse said a total of four sets of arrestees had been sent to San Uk Ling, and the highest number at the facility at any one time was 75.

Tse said the decision to use the facility was a matter of “resource allocation”, due to a large number of people needing to be processed. He added that certain “untruthful allegations” had spread about the facility online.

Photo: Kevin Cheng / United Social Press.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam likewise told the 150 public participants during Thursday’s town hall meeting that police no longer detained protesters at the site.

A report from NGO Amnesty International says that Hong Kong police have used reckless tactics and retaliatory violence in their crackdown on protesters during the demonstrations, originally sparked by an extradition bill.

Friday’s rally begins a fresh weekend of protests in Hong Kong, ongoing since June. The protests will culminate with an annual march on the occasion of China’s National Day on October 1, although the police have banned it.

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Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.