Hong Kong Police Harass Protesters, Shoppers, Residents With Searches, Checks

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Protesters carry banners, shout slogans in a Hong Kong shopping mall, Dec. 26, 2019.

Police in Hong Kong once more raided shopping malls in the city as protesters continued to gather for a third day of "Christmas shopping" trips, chanting slogans and calling on businesses to close for the day.

Riot police rushed into the Mega Mall in the New Territories town of Tai Po after masked protesters gathered, chanting "Free Hong Kong! Revolution in our time!" and "Disband the Hong Kong Police now!"

The raid saw police fire blue liquid at shoppers and protesters, who also threw paintballs at police. Local residents shouted at police in anger and defiance, only to be called "cockroaches" in return.

In the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, dozens of protesters in black masks and clothing gathered in MOKO mall and Langham Place, throwing paintballs down into the atrium.

Police started checking shoppers for evidence that they had taken part in protests. One person was taken away after being found in possession of a gas mask of the kind used by protesters to protect themselves from tear gas.

One officer launched into an emotional outburst, yelling "cockroaches!" at bystanders, a police slur used to describe black-clad protesters, and shone a bright light straight at nearby journalists and camera crews.

An insurance agent who was among those stopped by police in Kowloon said officers had no reasonable cause to stop him.

"They were trying to pick a fight," the man said. "They were trying to make me angry, make me mad, so they could come up with an excuse to arrest me."

Riot police and plainclothes officers also shone bright lights in the faces of bystanders and shoppers, while a message over loudspeaker called on protesters to leave the mall.

Dozens carry flags, shout slogans

Dozens of protesters carrying flags of the protest movement also turned out in the shopping district of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island, shouting slogans for a "black Christmas" as they walked through the Sogo department store.

Riot police were stationed at the entrance and exit of the mall, but no one was intercepted.

In the New Territories town of Tuen Mun, at least two people were arrested after protesters marched through the V City mall.

Police said they had made more than 310 arrests in a string of protests and clashes that have erupted across the city since Christmas Eve.

Many shops have closed for business, while police have continued to target groups of young people out shopping for ID checks and searches, including at the entrance to the Harbour City mall in Tsimshatsui.

The editor-in-chief of Stand News said the organization would be filing a formal complaint against the police after officers broadcast the ID card of one of their reporters who was covering the protests.

Lawyers criticized police actions as having no legal basis, and for violating privacy and personal data laws.

Police dispute report

Meanwhile, police hit out in a statement at an article in the Washington Post which quoted policing experts as saying that they had repeatedly broken most of their own rules on the use of force against protesters.

The statement said the article was "not based on facts."

"Police only respond with appropriate and proportionate force when protesters take part in illegal activities," the statement said.

"Only minimum necessary force has been deployed in response to the blatant unlawful activities of the violent protesters."

The Post reported that police guidelines were often ignored by police, "who have misused chemical agents and used excessive force against protesters not resisting," citing policing experts who examined dozens of video clips of incidents.

One obvious violation of the guidelines was the use of tear gas in enclosed spaces, the report said.

Another was the use of water cannon that affected bystanders who had little or no involvement in the clashes, violating the principles of necessity and proportionality, it said.

The guidelines also allow individual officers to determine what is a reasonable level of force when policing protests and making arrest, making abuse of police power more likely, the report found.

Experts told the paper that the Hong Kong police had gone against their own rules in about 70 percent of the incidents reviewed, and found that the use of force could be justified in about eight percent of cases.

Reported by RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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