Protesters arrested over Hong Kong clashes

Kyodo News

Posted at Jul 08 2019 09:54 PM

Riot police detain an anti-extradition bill protester after a march at Hong Kong’s tourism district Nathan Road near Mongkok, China on July 7, 2019. Thomas Peter, Reuters

Hong Kong police said Monday they have arrested six people in connection with Sunday's demonstration over a contentious but suspended extradition bill.

Five were arrested for alleged obstruction or assault following rounds of clashes between the police and protesters who were marching on a major road near the busy Mong Kok district in Kowloon late last night.

The sixth person was arrested during the demonstration for allegedly failing to produce proof of identity.

The organizers said more than 230,000 people took part in the largely peaceful march on Sunday afternoon in the tourist hotspot of Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon Peninsula, while the police put the turnout at 56,000.

The demonstration was mainly aimed at raising awareness of the bill among tourists, especially those traveling from mainland China, as it could allow the transfer of fugitives to the mainland.

The bill has attracted opposition among many Hong Kong residents amid fears it could severely undermine the former British colony's judicial independence and its semiautonomous status.

The Hong Kong government said early Monday that it "regrets" that some protesters obstructed traffic and disrupted business activities during the protest.

Meanwhile, journalist groups accused the police of rough treatment during Sunday's protest, especially during the clashes late Sunday night when they allegedly charged at a group of journalists covering the event.

"In recent protests, police officers have shoved or even insulted journalists. We hope the police will look into issues of police's use of force and respect the media's right to press coverage and freedom of the press, and protect the people's right to know," a joint statement issued by the Journalists Association and the Press Photographers Association said.

After millions of people marched in the territory calling for the bill's withdrawal, the Hong Kong government said last month it was suspending work on the bill.

Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, apologized for her handling of the bill after a massive protest on June 12 was marred by clashes in which the police used tear gas and other tactics against protesters.

The government later made it clear it is willing to see the bill expire in July next year. But protests have continued calling for a complete withdrawal of the bill, and a probe into allegations of the use of excessive force by the police during the June 12 protest.

Protesters are also calling for a pardon of all protesters previously arrested.

Some protesters broke into the Legislative Council building and vandalized it on Monday last week.

The government has vowed to pursue those involved in the ransacking, while remaining reluctant to set up any inquiry into the alleged police mistreatment on the grounds that doing so could hurt police morale.

More protests are being planned for the coming weekends.