Hong Kong police deployed pepper spray and took away at least four persons in Mong Kok on Thursday night, after hundreds of people gathered for a community commemoration on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
The incident took place as thousands gathered in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay for the annual vigil in defiance of a police ban. The authorities refused to give permission for the event, citing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
More than 200 citizens congregated outside Langham Place in the Kowloon shopping district, where they lit candles and observed a moment of silence at 8.09 pm to remember the victims. Hundreds, perhaps thousands died in the bloody crackdown on a student-led movement in Beijing 31 years ago.
Many attendees held placards and other props to express they would “never forget” what happened in 1989.
The event in Mong Kok was part of the citywide commemorative activities in local communities and at churches.
Citizens chanted protest catchphrases and sang songs. They also waved flags and shouted slogans advocating independence, including “Hongkongers, build a nation” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out.”
The slogans became popular among demonstrators in recent protests, after Beijing announced plans to criminalise secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign intervention in the city.
Chaos erupted at around 9 pm, moments after the organisers wrapped up the event. As most people left the scene, some of those remaining began to throw objects – including barricades – onto Argyle Street, blocking traffic lanes.
HKFP witnessed several plainclothes police officers emerge from the crowd to subdue the protesters. They pushed the demonstrators onto the ground and pulled out their expandable batons. They also fired pepper spray at the crowd as some people hurled objects at the officers.
More than 50 riot police and at least seven police vehicles arrived at the scene minutes later and cordoned off parts of the key thoroughfare. They raised a blue warning flag twice, signalling that people gathered were participating in an illegal assembly.
At least four people were taken away by police. Police later confirmed to HKFP that four men – aged 21 to 70 – were arrested in Mong Kok on Thursday night for alleged disorderly conduct in a public place. A 21-year-old man was also apprehended for allegedly assaulting police, while a 55-year-old was taken into custody for allegedly resisting arrest.
On Facebook, police said that “rioters” put pedestrians in “immense danger” by blocking carriageways with barriers and traffic cones. One officer suffered an injury to his head and arm, police said.
“Police officers in the vicinity immediately intercepted and subdued the suspects,” the force wrote.
It added: “The Police officers have taken action to enforce the law and deployed minimum necessary force. The Police warn all rioters to stop road blockage and stop victimising innocent citizen.”
Earlier, police found a suspicious parcel in Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan at around 8 pm. The force said the box had threatening messages written on it stating “easy to harm people.”
Officers of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau detonated the object at the scene.