Hong Kong saw the largest mass arrest in months as authorities sought to thwart pro-democracy protests planned for Mothers Day.
Hong Kong police arrested around 230 protesters on May 11, aged 12 and 65, on offenses including unlawful assembly, assaulting police, and failing to provide proof of identity, according to a police statement.
Mass demonstrations, sparked by fears of Beijings growing influence in the city, erupted last June. While the protests quieted down amid the virus outbreak, protesters braced for a comeback this weekend, after recent arrests of pro-democracy activists and Beijings renewed interference in local politics.
Hundreds gathered in shopping malls across the city on Sunday afternoon to chant slogans and sing protest songs after police refused to grant permission for a Mothers Day march, citing new regulations prohibiting public gatherings in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Riot police soon appeared to disperse crowds.
Another 19 people were fined for violating a health regulation that prohibits public gatherings of more than eight people. The police used pepper spray inside a shopping mall to disperse protesters who refused to leave and surrounded the officers, according to the police statement.
Among those arrested was Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong, who was pushed to the ground by riot police. One officer pressed his knee against Kwongs head, according to social media footage from the scenes. Kwong, who was charged with disorderly conduct, was one of 18 people hospitalized on Monday for injuries from Sunday, Hong Kongs Hospital Authority said.
Gary, a resident in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood, said he saw what was happening on television and stepped outside his apartment building to check on the situation. He said the governments actions have made people angry, forcing them to protest on the streets.
Having been to several mass protests in 2019, he said he had deep respect for the young protesters persistence and civil manner. “They had sacrificed their career for Hong Kong and for our society, to fight for the justice that Hong Kong otherwise might not have,” he said in an interview.
Jenny, a protester, said that she saw many mothers participating in the Sunday protests. They “are caring for the next generation,” she said, adding that her Christian faith provided her the courage to stand up. “I have to speak the truth and let the world know.”
The polices rough and at times violent handling of protesters, which invited international scrutiny last year, has prompted a fresh torrent of complaints after Sundays events.
A middle-aged protester in Tsim Sha Tsui said that the police threatened to beat him up while checking his identity. “He didnt provoke the police, but just asked the people in the front to watch out,” his friend told The Epoch Times.
As protests continued into the night in the Mong Kok area, police fired pepper rounds at press members and conducted stop and search operations on journalists at the scene.
A reporter from local newspaper Apple Daily collapsed after she was pulled away by a police officer and placed in a chokehold for about 20 seconds, according to the outlet.