At least 23 people were injured and 11 were arrested following police-protester clashes during a banned anti-mob violence protest in Yuen Long on Saturday.
Among those hospitalised, two people were in a severe condition as of 1am Sunday, with 11 in a stable condition. Ten were discharged. At least four police officers and two journalists were also hurt as the violence escalated into the evening.
The 11 men were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting police officers, among other charges.
At around 5pm, the police used tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge grenades to disperse protesters. At dusk, they cleared roads around Long Ping MTR station and Nam Pin Wai village at dusk, before surrounding Yuen Long MTR station.
As crowds retreated into the station, riot police and police tactical unit officers stormed in and baton-charged activists.
The officers pushed demonstrators towards the paid area, cornering several unarmed people.
Some protesters fell on the ground as they ran away. Bloodstains were left on the scene after a protester was pushed on the ground by police officers.
Yolanda Yu, a senior superintendent at the police public relations branch, told reporters during an overnight press conference that police used crowd control weapons throughout Saturday to halt the protesters’ violent attacks.
“The protest was of very high risk, and this was the reason we opposed to it in the first place,” she said. “The police had no choice but to use appropriate force. We condemn the violent acts.”
Yu said some protesters were throwing fire extinguishers at the police below the station, and thus officers went into the station to control the scene.
The MTR was not notified before the police took action, because officers had to make the decision in a split second, Yu said.
The violence within Yuen Long’s MTR station came after a mob attacked passers-by with weapons last Sunday night, injuring 45 people. Protesters showed up in Yuen Long on Saturday to protest against the attacks and the police reaction, as they stood accused of being late to the rescue.
The police banned the protest days ago, but protesters still poured into the New Territories town, occupying roads, surrounding Yuen Long’s police station, and forming makeshift barricades. Some protesters threw items at the police such as umbrellas and glass bottles.
A police van was surrounded, and names of triads were spray-painted on it in protest.
When asked whether the police would promise not to use tear gas in residential areas, senior superintendent Yu said the force have refuted rumours that officers used tear gas near an elderly home.
“The police will use force considering the environment,” she said.
In a press release just after midnight, a government spokesperson condemned protesters for attending an illegal rally, adding that police will pursue violent protesters: “Although these activities were illegal, the Government took all practicable actions, including special traffic arrangements, to ensure public safety.”
“After the public procession, some radical protesters violently charged police’s cordon lines, vandalised a police vehicle and blocked roads. The Government strongly condemned the protesters for breaching the public peace and breaking the law deliberately.”
Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, condemned the police action in a press release: “The violent scenes in Yuen Long tonight were in part because Hong Kong police chose to inflame a tense situation rather than deescalate it. For police to declare today’s protest unlawful was simply wrong under international law,” he said.
“While police must be able to defend themselves, there were repeated instances today where police officers were the aggressors; beating retreating protesters, attacking civilians in the train station and targeting journalists. Alarmingly, such a heavy-handed response now appears the modus operandi for Hong Kong police and we urge them to quickly change course,” he added.
Protesters are set to rally against police violence on Sunday on Hong Kong Island, though police have placed restrictions on the demonstration.