Over 100 riot police officers cleared protesters from a luxury shopping mall in Central on Tuesday night, as dozens gathered to chant pro-democracy slogans and sing songs related to the anti-extradition movement. According to local media, at least six people were ticketed for violating coronavirus social distancing rules.
Crowds responded to calls online to join the “Sing with you” event in the IFC mall in Central at around 6 pm.
Some demonstrators brought the British colonial flag and the flags with a slogan that read “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
One woman caught the attention of photojournalists as she walked around with a specially-painted umbrella listing protesters’ demands.
Since last year, demonstrators have been calling for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry and restructuring of the police force.
Among those who attended the protest was “Howard,” a local Kim Jong-un impersonator wielding an inflatable missile.
Over 100 riot police officers entered the mall at around 6.30 pm to disperse the crowds. They set up cordons on different floors of the mall as some shops closed.
The police announced over a loudspeaker that the ban on gatherings of more than four people was effective, warning citizens not to congregate.
Lawmaker Ted Hui and Central and Western District Councillor Sam Yip were at the scene and questioned why the police could enter the mall to carry out law enforcement duties.
A female officer surnamed Chan told Hui and Yip that there is no legislation stipulating that the force needs approval from the mall for law enforcement. She added that some people inside the mall had called the police, but did not give further details.
Two young men were stopped by the police, who later issued fixed penalty tickets of HK$2,000 to them for breaching the gathering ban.
Another Central and Western District Councillor Camille Yam, who streamed the protest live on Facebook, said she asked the police why two persons would be seen as violating the gathering ban. She quoted a response from an officer who said: “I saw they had more than four people before, that’s violating the law.”
Another citizen who was ticketed was tycoon Jerome Lau, who told reporters that he was with his assistant and two other friends when he was stopped by the police. He said he was furious and insisted that he had not breached the law, adding that he would not pay the fine.
On Sunday, police dispersed demonstrators at a shopping centre in Taikoo Shing, after hundreds gathered to chant slogans and sing songs, warning people there that they had violated social distancing rules.
The force claimed that if people gathered for a common purpose in a public space, they would be seen as being part of a prohibited group gathering, whether or not they keep a distance of 1.5 metres from one another. Shareholder activist David Webb, however, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that there was no mention of “common purpose” in the newly enacted regulations.
On Tuesday, police urged those who were not journalists to leave, otherwise, they would be ticketed for violating the gathering ban.
Police officers left the mall briefly, but returned at around 7.30 pm to conduct stop and search actions in the mall and at the MTR station. The force eventually left at around 9 pm.