Dozens arrested during weekend protests in Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po

March 09, 2020 16:24
Declaring the gathering an authorized assembly, police sought to disperse hundreds of people who had gathered in Tsueng Kwan O on Sunday to mourn the death of a student four months ago during a protest event. Photo: HKEJ

Hundreds of people gathered in Tsueng Kwan O on Sunday to pay tribute to Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student who died from head injuries four months ago after falling from a carpark during a police crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Congregating near the same carpark from where Chow fell and subsequently lost his life, the crowd of mourners found itself pitted against the police who declared the gathering an illegal assembly and sought to clear the area.

Amid a standoff, which saw some barricades thrown onto the road, riot police used pepper-spray against the protesters and detained dozens of people.

Before the mourning ceremony began, a number of police officers arrived in the area and stood guard, keeping an eye out for potential trouble.

In a social media post on Sunday night, the police said that given what happened in the past few months, when some people had thrown objects from high places at the carpark during protest events, it decided to dispatch officers to patrol in advance this time.

The officers found objects such as petrol bombs, glass bottles and bricks, the police claimed.

In the early hours of Nov. 4, police officers fired tear gas at a three-story car park in Sheung Tak Estate, a public housing estate near the Tseung Kwan O MTR Station, to disperse anti-government protesters.

At around 1:10 am that day, Chow was found lying unconscious on the second floor of the car park and was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, apparently having fallen from a height while trying to flee the police.

The young man, who was a second-year computer science student at HKUST, later succumbed to his injuries on Nov. 8, sparking outrage within the student community and intensifying their anger against the police.

The ceremony Sunday night had been planned to mark the four-month anniversary of Chow's death. As the event was in progress in a peaceful manner, suddenly a large number of riot police officers showed up at the scene and sealed off the nearby pedestrian walks.

When some 300 people were waiting to be frisked one by one before they were allowed to leave, officers were seen using pepper-spray against some of them.

Riot police entered a residential block in the nearby Kwong Ming Court estate at close to 1 am on Monday and detained dozens.

On Sunday, clashes also erupted in Tai Po after hundreds of people staged an unauthorized march around the Tin Hau Temple Fung Shui Square to protest the government’s move to designate a clinic in the neighborhood for treatment of potential novel coronavirus patients.

Several dozen gathered in the area and there were no untoward incidents before the march started.

Riot police suddenly arrived later and began stopping and searching the people at the scene. The officers kept expanding the cordoned area and used pepper-spray at the crowd, before eventually releasing most of the people. However, at least three people were taken away.

Later, people gathered again and then marched in another location in Tai Po, before some started to block roads nearby with miscellaneous objects. Riot police then arrived to conduct a dispersal.

Police seemed to be in a hunt for protesters and bent on making arrests. Meanwhile, some officers used pepper spray against passers-by and journalists at the scene multiple times.

Plainclothes officers arrested a number of people inside the Fortune Plaza commercial complex.

According to Community Alliance, a group comprising pro-democracy activists and community workers, the arrested were believed to include three Tai Po district councilors -- Man Nim-chi, Dalu Lin Kok-cheung and Herman Yiu Kwan-ho.

On Monday, police said 23 protesters, aged between 13 and 68, were arrested in the operation in Tai Po on Sunday.

In other news, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) reported that seven more people had tested positive for Covid-19 infection over the weekend, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the city to 114, with one probable case.

Three of the newly added cases were associated with the cluster related to an India tour group, while one involved a 38-year-old woman who returned to Hong Kong on Thursday from Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province by the fourth chartered flight arranged by the government.

A 76-year-old female confirmed patient (the 99th case) died on Sunday afternoon, the third death caused by the novel coronavirus in Hong Kong.

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A person is pepper-sprayed and subdued by the police during a demonstration in Tai Po. Photo: RTHK