An anti-parallel trading march turned violent in Sheung Shui over the weekend after protesters clashed with police.
Thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday afternoon asking the government to take more effective measures to deal with rampant cross-border parallel goods trade that has caused a lot of nuisance to residents in the district.
They also demanded that the government completely withdraw the extradition bill and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor step down.
The march began at the basketball court of the North District Sports Ground at 3:30 p.m. But clashes began on a footbridge near the Landmark North shopping mall shortly after the march ended at Sheung Shui Garden No. 1 at 5 p.m.
Around 30,000 joined the march, according to its organizer The North District Parallel Imports Concern Group, but police said estimated the crowd at 4,000 at the peak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
In a press release issued at 2:53 a.m. on Sunday, the government said many people “assembled unlawfully along Lung Sum Avenue, Lung Wan Street and San Wan Road”.
“Police found that in a short period of time, a large number of equipment like helmets and goggles were distributed premeditatedly,” it said.
“Some protesters collected a lot of iron poles and other offensive weapons, demolished the railings nearby, and blocked the roads by water barriers, railings and some miscellaneous objects.”
According to the release, the protesters then charged police cordon lines and attacked the officers with various weapons and objects, including iron poles as well as suspected irritating powder and liquid, causing injuries to a number of officers.
At least ten officers were sent to hospital for treatment.
Following repeated but futile warnings, police took action to disperse the crowd around 8 p.m.
During the dispersal action, which ended at 10.30 p.m., police arrested two men for unlawful assembly.
One of the two climbed over the railings and attempted to jump off the footbridge, but photojournalists and officers immediately pulled him back to rescue him. He was later arrested for unlawful assembly.
The police also accused some Legislative Council members and other people of standing before the police cordon lines.
Such action not only prevented police from moving forward and performing their duties but also caused danger to the personal safety of everyone at the scene, the press release said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Junior Police Officers Association lashed out at the protesters for using umbrellas and other objects to assault officers, who had nothing to protect themselves with.
It said it would seek legal advice to secure more effective protection for officers.
In a separate statement, the Police Inspectors’ Association said recent violent incidents that ruin the rule of law showed that anti-extradition bill protesters were getting out of control and aiming to topple the police force.
It called on citizens to fully support the police in enforcing laws.
Both associations also sought to refute the claim by Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin that a young man was forced to jump off the footbridge before he was chased by the police and arrested.
But Wan stood by his claim and asked why the man was so scared of the police that he decided to do such a dangerous thing.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association said it was regretful that police officers, in their clearance operations, had to push frontline reporters’ bodies and cameras multiple times and even beat them with batons.
In a joint statement, 24 pan-democratic lawmakers criticized the police for unwarranted use of batons and pepper sprays even on reporters and lawmakers who were already retreating.
That Lam refused to establish an independent commission to look into the behavior of police officers during protests was tantamount to encouraging them to continue with the abusive actions, the lawmakers said.
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