Police fired tear gas and pepper spray during protest clashes in Mong Kok on Saturday, as demonstrators gathered for a monthly commemoration of the Prince Edward MTR station incident. An officer also pointed his pistol at protesters after he was attacked, as the force made 115 arrests.
At dusk, hundreds gathered at Prince Edward MTR station exit A, near Mong Kok Police Station, to mark six months since baton-wielding riot police stormed into the station leaving dozens injured.
Protesters chanted slogans and laid floral tributes at MTR exits, which were periodically cleared by officers. Police warned those gathered to disperse as they were taking part in an unlawful assembly and were littering, according to RTHK.
Several volleys of tear gas were fired as crowds swelled.
The police said in a press release that protesters pointed laser beams, built barricades and set fires on roads at around 6pm outside their station. They also threw petrol bombs at the junction of Nathan Road and Argyle Street at 8:30pm, the police added in a later press release.
The force said that 71 males and 44 females aged 15 to 54 were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assault of police officers, obstruction, theft, or disorderly conduct.
“Police have used minimum necessary force, including tear gas, for dispersal and arrest operation,” said police in the press release.
One protester told HKFP that she was angered by the 25 per cent police budget boost announced this week.
After around 9pm, police pushed crowds southwards & removed makeshift barricades on Nathan Rd. Mong Kok MTR station remains closed. pic.twitter.com/hFVNR6bB2c
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) February 29, 2020
Later in the evening, a police officer – who appeared to be injured – drew his pistol and pointed it at protesters during a standoff, according to CityU SU Editorial Board.
The police statement said a male police officer drew his gun as his life was threatened at the scene where he was assaulted with bricks, stones and bamboo sticks.
A police officer holds his Glock handgun at black-clad protesters, some armed with petrol bombs, during a rally on Saturday night to mark six months since the authorities stormed a subway station and arrested demonstrators. pic.twitter.com/klX1AXk2Lt
— EYEPRESS NEWS AGENCY (@eyepressnews) February 29, 2020
Footage from the clashes also showed that several police officers pepper-sprayed and punched a young male.
And, according to United Social Press, another young male in a red top passed out during his unrest on Argyle Street and was dragged along the ground by riot police officers. He was later put in an ambulance.
HKFP has reached out to the police for comment on this injured man.
During the evening, an Mong Kok MTR station exit was set alight, causing the station to be closed throughout the evening.
Protests erupted last June over a now-axed extradition bill. They have escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.
Demonstrators have been demanding an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
Saturday’s clashes mark the worst unrest in weeks and come days after police were promised a 25 per cent budget boost.
“The medics do not get [such an] allowance,” one protester at the scene told HKFP. “They really save lives, but those police do not save lives.”
Six months on from August 31, there is fire on the streets of Mong Kok again, with several trash cans burning on Sai Yeung Choi Street pic.twitter.com/1r0AAExDvd
— Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN) February 29, 2020
Demonstrations have reduced in frequency this year amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
It has been over three weeks since the police last deployed tear gas. On February 8, tear gas was used to disperse a crowd in Tseung Kwan O holding a candle-lit vigil for Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 21-year-old student who fell from a car park during a nearby police operation and died after four days later last November.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.
Correction: 19.10: A previous version of this article incorrectly described the officer’s gun as a revolver owing to an editing error.