Pan-dems question police tactics after Sha Tin mall incident

July 16, 2019 16:27
Umbrellas thrown at the riot police lie scattered on the floor inside the New Town Plaza mall after a clash involving extradition bill protesters in Sha Tin on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Pro-democracy lawmakers lashed out at the police over alleged tactics deployed by the law enforcement officials on extradition bill protesters during a clearing operation Sunday at a shopping mall in the New Territories.  

Accusing the police of deliberately surrounding the protesters inside a Sha Tin shopping mall and confining them within a small area, the lawmakers alleged that the demonstrators were made to feel cornered with no escape route.

The mall was turned into a "coliseum" where protesters found themselves in a situation of having no option but to put up a fight to break the human ring set up by the police, the lawmakers said.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, 25 lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp called the police tactics ridiculous and stupid, blaming them for the chaos and violence that ensued at the mall.

Sunday’s melee between protesters and police officers took place at the New Town Plaza shopping mall as authorities began a clearance operation in the night, targeting protesters who had taken refuge inside the mall after a street demonstration earlier in the day.

The clearance operation saw violent scuffles break out, resulting in injuries to both sides, as well as to some innocent members of the public. Several dozen people were arrested after the incident.

The pan-democrats said they suspect the police launched their action without the consent of the mall’s owner, Sun Hung Kai Properties. Hence, the operation might have violated the Police General Orders, they said.

Meanwhile, cornering of the protesters within a small area without giving them a chance to disperse from the area leaves the police open to charges of false imprisonment of citizens, the pan-dems said.

Accusing the police of damaging social peace, the opposition lawmakers demanded that Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung give an explanation, take disciplinary action on the relevant commanders and officers at the scene, and also apologize to the affected shops and citizens.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, who is a barrister by profession, said the frontline commanders in the incident should assume the most responsibility.

He said he cannot figure out the basis for the police action, as to why they came to the conclusion that there had been illegal acts in the mall.

If the police merely wanted the protesters to leave the mall, the officers should have given enough time to the people disperse, rather than launch baton and pepper-spray attacks, Yeung said.

In their statement, the pan-democratic lawmakers described the Lam administration as a running car without a driver.

If Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor continues to ignore people’s resentment and the five demands of the public, and instead allows the police to create situations that will result in clashes with the citizens, Hong Kong will be a situation where “the car” will definitely crash, the statement said.

In a press release on Monday, Sun Hung Kai Properties had many things to say in relation to the incident at the mall the previous day.

“There are a number of public passageways at New Town Plaza linked to various entrances which, under the Government Lease of New Town Plaza, must be kept open to all members of the public 24 hours a day. These public passageways include those leading to the MTR Sha Tin Station and the bus terminus,” the company said.

It stressed that it “had no prior knowledge of the police operation... inside the shopping mall, nor the suspension of railway services, which made it difficult for people inside the shopping mall to leave in an orderly fashion.”

The property developer said it deeply regrets that the Sunday incident had caused “a number of injuries” in the mall, and “the inconvenience caused to customers, visitors and tenants.”

Asked by a journalist as to whether the pan-democrats will distance themselves from the violent protesters, lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convenor of the pan-democrats' meeting group of lawmakers stressed that her camp will not distance itself from young people.

It is Chief Executive Lam who should bear responsibility for the recent unfortunate events in Hong Kong, Mo said.

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