Dozens of anti-government protesters flouted social-distancing rules amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong on Sunday, as they gathered to mark the first anniversary of an attack at Yuen Long railway station last July 21 during the city’s social unrest.
But the protesters were outnumbered by about 100 riot police officers, who arrested four people for unlawful assembly and fined several for breaking social-distancing regulations.
Police also used pepper spray to disperse the protesters, who heckled the officers during identity card checks. Some reporters at the scene were also hit by pepper spray.
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The protesters planned to march at 3pm from Yuen Long MTR station to Shui Pin Tsuen Playground, opposite Yuen Long Police Station.
Among those who showed up were Council Front lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and several community representatives, including Tsuen Wan district councillor Lester Shum, Yuen Long district councillors Lam Chun, Ng Kin-wai, Hau Man-kin, Kwan Chun-sang and Chan Shu-fai, as well as Mak Ip-sing, vice-chairman of Yuen Long District Council.
Outnumbered by officers at the venue, they decided to move into Yoho Mall shopping centre at about 4pm. Police warned them at the mall that they could be fined for breaking social-distancing regulations.
Officers served summonses on eight protesters suspected of breaching the regulations, as they refused to leave the venue despite repeated warnings.
After protesters chanted the popular slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”, police unfurled a purple flag warning they could have contravened the national security law, which prohibits crimes including secession and subversion.
As night fell, four councillors – Lam, Ng, Hau and Kwan – all from the community group TSW Connection, changed their tactics and started to march towards Long Ping MTR station.
“Police brutality has not stopped! Take to the street, and seek the truth!” they chanted.
Police unfurled a blue flag near Yau San Street, warning that their march was unlawful. Officers later took them away in police vehicles.
At Yuen Long MTR station on July 21 last year, a white-clad mob armed with wooden sticks and metal poles targeted black-clad protesters returning from a demonstration against the now-withdrawn extradition bill on Hong Kong Island. Passengers and passers-by were also injured in their violent rampage, which left 47 in hospital. Police arrested at least 37 suspects.
But some local residents had accused police of colluding with the attackers as it took officers about 40 minutes to respond to emergency calls for help.
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More from South China Morning Post:
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- At least 45 injured as rod-wielding mob dressed in white rampages through Yuen Long MTR station, beating screaming protesters