Riot police were deployed on Tuesday evening to disperse crowds outside Kwai Chung police station who had gathered in opposition to the government’s decision to charge 44 arrested protesters with rioting.
Police used pepper spray on multiple occasions and one officer pointed a Remington pump-action shotgun at the crowd.
Hundreds started to convene outside the station at around 8pm, when news broke that 44 of the protesters arrested over Sunday’s clashes in Sheung Wan would be charged with rioting.
One of the anti-extradition law movement’s demands has been for the “riot” characterisation of protests to be dropped. The controversial charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years under the Public Order Ordinance.
Police arrested 32 men and 17 women – ranging from 16 to 41-years-old – after the violent clashes in Sheung Wan. Some of the arrestees were detained at Kwai Chung police station before their scheduled court appearance on Wednesday at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court.
Of the 44 charged with rioting, a 33-year-old man faced an additional charge of assaulting a police officer. Another 24-year-old man was charged with possession of offensive weapons.
The four remaining arrestees were temporarily released, with police saying they were still investigating two of them.
At the Kwai Chung police station, angry demonstrators and shouted slogans such as “the whole family of black cops will die” and “release the people.”
Johnson Yeung, an activist who was arrested on Sunday for obstruction of police, was released on bail on Tuesday evening but needed to appear in court the next morning.
He said more than 30 were still inside the Kwai Chung police station, some of whom were held there for more than 48 hours.
“They were scared when they heard they will be charged for rioting. But I told them many people were outside supporting them, they felt more reassured,” he said.
Yeung said his phone, which should be sealed in an evidence bag, was taken by the police for hours, and he did not know what the police may have used his phone for.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu told HKFP that fewer than 10 detained activists were still inside the station at midnight: “Many of them are charged with the crime of ‘riot’ and go to court tomorrow morning… we don’t know [how] many of them will get court bail tomorrow.”
The Sunday clashes in Sheung Wan, which saw 16 people injured, stemmed from a rally in Chater Garden against police brutality. Police had previously banned a march, but spontaneous demonstrations then broke out on Sunday afternoon in Causeway Bay, Central, Wan Chai, Sheung Wan and Sai Wan.
On Sunday night, police fired numerous rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, sponge grenades and pepper spray during the Western district clearance operation.