Police on Monday night staged a show of force in Mong Kok, a district hit by some of the most violent clashes with protesters in recent months, but instead of being confronted by demonstrators were jeered by onlookers.
Many Hongkongers say police have used excessive force against protesters – some of them school students and young adults – and want an independent inquiry into police action.
Police arrived in vans at several locations in the district and marched down the street, some beating shields, but were outnumbered by media and onlookers and withdrew to cheers.
In one incident, a few dozen riot police retreated and drove off as about 150 residents and passers-by heckled them, chanting “disband police” and “Hong Kongers revolt”.
Police fired tear gas and used pepper spray on people in some locations and detained a handful of people in the working-class district across the harbor from the financial center that has been a focal point of past demonstrations.
A handful of protesters played a cat-and-mouse game with police but there were no major confrontations by late Monday night.
Police said “masked rioters” had damaged public property and facilities in metro stations and were guilty of arson.
“The police strongly condemn the life-threatening and violent acts of rioters. Appallingly, some onlookers even clapped their hands to incite the rioters,” the police said. Late on Monday most police had withdrawn from Mong Kok streets.
Tens of thousands of protesters, many families with children, marched peacefully through the center of Hong Kong on Sunday, most wearing face masks in defiance of the threat of a maximum one-year prison sentence for doing so. Those rallies later descended into violent clashes with police.
The introduction of colonial-era emergency powers banning face masks, which protesters use to hide their identity, has sparked some of the most violent clashes in four months of demonstrations.
“Before long, unless we are very, very lucky, people are going to get killed, people are going to be shot,” Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, told Sky News.
“The idea that with public order policing you send police forces out with live ammunition is preposterous,” said Patten, who presided over the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
Two protesters have been shot, one in the chest and one in the leg. Authorities said the shootings were not intentional but occurred during skirmishes between police and protesters.
Many protesters, police and journalists have been injured in clashes, with police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators, some of whom throw bricks and petrol bombs. Reuters
– Contact us at [email protected]