A spontaneous protest in Yuen Long ended with Hong Kong police firing tear gas at protesters on Saturday night. Separately, thousands of medical professionals held a rally in Central to oppose violence by the police.
Crowds gathered at Castle Peak Road, the main thoroughfare in Yuen Long, in response to calls online for “reclaiming” the neighbourhood. Protesters chanted slogans opposing alleged police brutality, set up barricades and damaged traffic lights.
Riot police arrived on the scene at around 9pm and detained multiple people. A statement from the force said that the protesters “hurled a glass bottle at police officers” and warned that the people present were participating in an unlawful assembly.
Tear gas was fired shortly after midnight, though only a handful of protesters were left.
The Yuen Long protest was mobilised on short notice, with its organisers saying that people should express support for those arrested on October 21 during a sit-in in the same neighbourhood.
Separately, medical workers organised a peaceful rally at Chater Garden in Central to voice concern over what they perceived to be escalating violence by police and the subsequent effect on the public healthcare system.
Organisers said over 10,000 people showed up, but police said the peak turnout was 2,300.
Joseph Lee, a pro-democracy lawmaker representing the health services constituency, said that the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam had “tolerated the abuses” by police, which led to some protesters being afraid of seeking help at public hospitals.
Arisina Ma, chairperson of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, accused officers of targeting frontline medics and compared them to “war criminals.”
During the rally, the organisers played a voice recording which they said was made by an injured person, who had his fingers broken after being shot by a stray police projectile in Mong Kok.
The person was advised not to go to a government hospital for fear of being questioned by police and having his ID number taken. Instead, he sought surgery at an “underground clinic” run by doctors sympathetic to the protest movement.
The rally also drew attention to the continued police presence in public hospitals: “The abuses of power by the police and their disregard for the Hospital Authority Bylaws have reached an outrageous state,” organisers said in a statement.
They referred to a previous incident where a male police officer entered a maternity ward, as well as the presence of fully armed riot police within hospital premises.
“A hospital is meant to be a place of rest for patients. The presence of armed riot police not only disrupts the safe, stable and calm environment, but also makes medical workers worry about hospital operation and patient care,” the statement added.
“All these moves by the police forces us to arrive at the conclusion that it has more to do with ‘shock and awe’ rather than practical necessity. And in fact, many people have been afraid of seeking medical attention after being injured.”
Hong Kong has entered its 21st week of mass protests, which were triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed fugitive transfers to mainland China.
The movement has since evolved into wider calls for democracy, a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for arrested protesters, among other demands.
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