Hong Kong police have been accused of driving a van carrying elite officers into protesters during a clearance operation in Yau Ma Tei on Monday night.
Demonstrators have been occupying the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) for more than a week, in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a citywide strike and class boycott. Police have surrounded the campus since Sunday, blocking all exits.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people tried to encircle police officers near the campus in order to distract officers and rescue those trapped inside.
At around 11:30pm that day, police began to disperse protesters at the intersection of Nathan Road and Pitt Street.
Footage widely shared online appeared to show one white van accelerating towards the fleeing crowd. Two other police vehicles followed it.
This is one horrifying video, seeing police charges the protesters with a van, without much consideration or concerns that they will crash them
— Cloud Y. Leaf | 🍁 (@cloudyip) November 19, 2019
The video showed a group of officers from the Special Tactical Squad – commonly known as “raptors” – exiting from the first van and chasing after protesters. Some of the officers were seen holding pepper ball launchers which they fired at the crowd. Several loud bangs were then heard.
According to In-Media, a stampede ensued. A volunteer first aider told the outlet that a person broke their arm after someone stepped on it, however, the injured person was not able to receive treatment because police officers wielded pepper spray and demanded all medics leave the area.
Paramedics arrived around 15 minutes after the incident. A man on the scene was unresponsive but regained consciousness after receiving medical treatment. He was subsequently taken away on an ambulance.
At least 68 people were arrested in total. Many were told to kneel on the pavement facing the wall with their hands behind their backs for more than an hour, In-Media reported.
Police Senior Superintendent of the Operations Branch Wong Wai-shun confirmed that officers had used flash grenades in Yau Ma Tei. He said petrol bombs and other objects were being thrown at officers at the time.
“We used the flash grenades you mentioned because we had no other ways to distract them,” he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
When asked about police vehicles speeding into the crowd, Wong said it was necessary for officers to take such measures when facing attacks from protesters.
“[Driving] fast doesn’t mean it is unsafe. For our police officers, they all well trained,” he said. “Be [confident in] the police. And please be [supportive] to the police. If you always worry about why the police do this and why the police do that, perhaps that may send some wrong [messages] to the public. Trust us and support us. ”
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