Police said a total of 29 people have been arrested for taking part in street brawls that took place in North Point and Fortress Hill areas on Sunday night, dismissing allegations of differential treatment of pro- and anti-government demonstrators.
Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the police’s public relations unit told a daily press briefing on Monday that the arrested included two men who were suspected of assaulting journalists and a man who was seen brandishing a folding stool.
Tse, however, did not reveal when the arrests were made.
In Sunday’s incident, a number of the middle-aged men, alleged to be Fujian natives, were seen launching attacks on black-clad protesters who were in a standoff with the police after the protesters occupied King’s Road in North Point and Fortress Hill areas.
Brawls then erupted on the streets as protesters fought back, resulting in multiple injuries. Several journalists covering the incidents were also caught up in the chaos.
It is believed that on Sunday night police arrested only two people and took in seven others for assistance in the investigation after searches on Ming Yuen Western Street in North Point.
Some arrested pro-establishment people were allegedly given police shields to cover their faces.
On Monday, lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convenor of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council, slammed police for their excessive arrests, while Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting accused the police of being selective by treating the protesters and their pro-establishment attackers differently.
In response to such allegations, Tse reiterated that officers facing the chaos have to control the situation before making arrests.
The absence of immediate arrests on the spot does not mean there was no law enforcement, he said.
Jim Ng Lok-chun, senior superintendent for operations on Hong Kong Island region, pointed out that if officers wanted to give a differential treatment to those who had attacked the protesters, there would not been on-site investigations conducted afterwards, unlike what actually happened.
According to police data, 89 people, aged 13 to 67, were arrested for offences including unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons, assaulting police officers, arson and fighting in a public place between Friday and Sunday.
Data also show police fired 32 canisters of tear gas, 11 rounds of rubber bullets and 12 sponge grenades on Sunday.
In related news, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung sent a message to all the roughly 30,000 police officers expressing his “deep appreciation and gratitude” for the officers’ efforts since June.
The message was sent on Monday, which marked the 100th day of the current protests that were triggered by a now-scrapped government proposal to amend the extradition law.
In the note, Lo pointed out that the past few months have been the “most unforgettable” for many officers and that the events of this summer will be “well remembered” in the police force’s history.
“The force would continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that officers are able to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently, and their welfare, along with that of their families, will be well taken care of,” RTHK quoted Lo as saying.
On Tuesday, speaking to reporters before an Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor responded to a question about the weekend protests, confrontations and fighting between groups of people with different political backgrounds and stances.
Lam stressed the government condemns all forms of violence and rigorously follows the law.
“Our condemnation is not politically driven. In the same way, police arrests and subsequent prosecution by the Department of Justice… are not politically driven,” Lam said.
“We act in strict accordance with the law based on the facts. So nobody should speculate or allege that either my government or police are being selective in the work that we are doing,” she said.
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