Hong Kong's police force came under fire on Thursday in the wake of its clearance of a pro-democracy camp in Mong Kok, as student leaders said they were subjected to violent treatment during arrest on public order charges.
Joshua Wong, 18, who heads the academic activist group Scholarism, told reporters after being bailed out from his arrest for contempt of court, that police who dragged him away from the Mong Kok street held by Occupy Central protesters until early this week had used violence.
"Around 10 police officers, including those in blue uniforms and helmets, rushed towards me and pushed me to the ground, so as to limit my range of movement," Wong said. "I was injured in the neck and elsewhere."
"They hurt me six or seven times, including in my private parts."
Wong, who has become one of the key figures in the Occupy Central movement since it began on Sept. 28, hit out at the use of violence, saying that police had also taunted and cursed at him during his overnight stay in Kowloon's Kwai Chung police station.
Wong, who was also pelted with eggs by two unidentified men outside the court, is now banned from entering the area that was the scene of Wednesday night's clashes, during which at least two journalists were arrested and one beaten, as a condition of his bail.
Fellow student leader Lester Shum, who was arrested at the same time, reported a similar experience.
"I was carried away by several police officers, who punched me and kicked me," Shum told reporters after being bailed out. "Some of them pulled my hair and pinned me to the ground."
Pan-democratic politicians also criticized the operation.
Labour Party chairman and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the government, which ruled out further dialogue with students earlier this month, should have worked harder to find a political solution to the stand-off.
"Political problems shouldn't be resolved with police violence," Lee said in a statement.
And lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who represents the legal profession in Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo), said police had failed to comply with correct procedures by not explaining the High Court injunction to people when they and court bailiffs began clearing barricades and encampments at the start of a two-day operation that saw at least 148 people arrested.
"I think the police action has not followed the procedures ... to explain the gist of the injunction order to the people at the scene, before they start the arrests," Kwok told reporters.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) said the operation was a bid by the government of embattled chief executive C.Y. Leung to clear protests in the name of a civil injunction brought by transportation groups.
Leung's administration had "attempted to borrow the name of the injunction to carry out what is in effect a clearance," the group said.
But Hong Kong justice secretary Rimsky Yuen defended the clearance operation, saying that police were entitled to carry out their duties in accordance with other ordinances aside from those stipulated in the High Court.
"If there is any person who takes the view that the bailiffs are not performing their duty properly, I am sure they can take the matter to the appropriate venue," Yuen said.
Some 6,000 police officers have been assigned to the cleared streets and nearby areas in Mong Kok until Sunday to prevent any attempt to re-take the area by Occupy Central protesters, the English-language South China Morning Post reported.
Official Chinese media applauded the clearance of Mong Kok.
"There was some inevitable confusion at the site, but the clearance was conducted as smoothly as expected," the tabloid Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial.
"With its goals appearing ridiculous and public support quickly diminishing, the Occupy Central campaign has failed," the paper said.
"Their radical illusion of reshaping Hong Kong is like tilting at windmills," it said. "It will never come to pass."
Meanwhile, student leaders threatened to target government buildings in response to police violence in Mong Kok.
"I think we have made it very clear that if [the police] continue the violent way of clearing up the place, we will have further actions,"
HKFS spokeswoman Yvonne Leung told government broadcaster RTHK.
"The further actions include a possibility of some escalations pointed at government-related buildings or some government-related departments," she said.
Leung, who also heads the University of Hong Kong students' union, said further details would be released soon.
The students' plans appear to be increasingly at odds with the strategies proposed by the three older founders of Occupy Central, Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming, who have said they plan to turn themselves in to police next month in a sacrificial gesture to win public support for the movement they started.
More radical protesters have called for further escalation of protests in a bid to put further pressure on the government to give in to Occupy Central's core demands.
Occupy Central, or the "Umbrella Movement," began on Sept. 28, when police use of tear-gas and pepper spray against umbrella-wielding demonstrators brought hundreds of thousands of citizens onto the streets in protest at the movement's height.
But Hong Kong officials have repeatedly told the protesters to leave, saying that Beijing won't withdraw an Aug. 31 decision ruling out public nomination of candidates in the 2017 election for the chief executive.
China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), said that while Hong Kong's five million voters will cast ballots to elect the next chief executive, they may only choose between two or three candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
Protesters and pan-democratic politicians, who currently only have around seven percent of the nominating committee vote compared with 56 percent of the popular vote in the last legislative election, have dismissed the proposed electoral reforms as "fake universal suffrage."
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.