HONG KONG: Hong Kong riot police used pepper spray to disperse protesters Monday on the anniversary of a notorious clash during last year’s pro-democracy rallies where officers were filmed beating people on a train.
Dozens of activists gathered outside Prince Edward subway station as night fell to chant pro-democracy slogans and lay flowers, but officers declared it an illegal protest and riot police with batons and pepper ball guns arrived to break up the crowds.
Throughout the evening police stopped and searched multiple people as pro-democracy slogans were chanted.
Police said they made 12 arrests, including a 17-year-old male “claiming himself to be a reporter” and another person who possessed an imitation firearm.
Nine were arrested for unlawful assembly.
In one chaotic incident captured on film, police officers could be seen wrestling a pregnant woman to the ground and using pepper spray on others nearby.
Police said they were trying to arrest a man after crowds had “heckled” officers, and that the woman was sent to hospital for checks.
“Police are highly concerned that a pregnant woman was affected by the chaotic protest scene and send condolences to her,” the force said.
Prominent pro-democracy supporters blasted the latest footage.
“Terrible police violence once again, and none of these Hong Kong police officers will undergo any forms of investigation,” Nathan Law, a young activist who recently fled to Britain wrote on Twitter.
Hong Kong was rocked by seven straight months of huge and often violent protests last year calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.
Street demonstrations have since been snuffed out by zero-tolerance policing tactics, anti-coronavirus measures banning public gatherings and a draconian new security law Beijing imposed on the restless city in late June.
Small crowds still often form during key dates from last year’s protests.
Protesters gathered on Monday to mark Aug 31, 2019, the night police officers stormed into Prince Edward station and were filmed beating multiple people on a subway train with batons, leaving them bloodied.
It was one of many days during last year’s unrest when footage of police action deepened public anger towards law enforcement and injected new vigour into the protest movement.
Reporters and paramedics were later denied access to the station, fuelling online rumours that swirled for weeks of missing people despite no compelling evidence emerging.
An inquiry into the police handling of the protests became a core demand of democracy supporters and rights groups, alongside an amnesty for the more than 9,000 arrested and fully free elections.
Beijing and Hong Kong’s leaders have rejected those demands, portraying the protests as a foreign-fuelled plot to destabilise China.